Studying God’s Word

• 1 Kings 17:17-24
• Galatians 1:11-19
• Luke 7:11-17 [90C]
The readings for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time present divine encounters. In both miracle stories and the call narrative of St. Paul, new insights are achieved by those most directly impacted by God’s intervention in their lives.
The first reading is taken from the First Book of Kings. 1 Kings 17–19 presents the stories of two ninth-century BC prophets from the northern kingdom of Israel, Elijah and Elisha. In today’s reading, we hear about the prophet Elijah raising from the dead the son of a widow. In addition to her overwhelming joy, the widow learned two important lessons in the miracle of her resuscitated son. First, her son’s death was not divine retribution for the sins she committed in her life—a belief and a fear held by some ancient Israelites. And second, the prophet Elijah was truly a “man of God,” not one of the many false prophets that plagued the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah during this period of the divided monarchy. 
Scholars have often noted the similarities between the story of Elijah raising the widow’s son and today’s Gospel reading—Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son from the village of Nain. Beyond the obvious parallels in these miracle stories (both widows, both sons of a widow raised, neither widow actually sought out Elijah or Jesus), the reaction of those witnessing the miracle is very similar as well: “A great prophet has arisen in our midst” and “God has visited his people.” (See the widow’s similar reaction to Elijah, 1 Kgs 17:24.) The widow and the crowds both sensed God’s divine presence in their encounter with Elijah and with Jesus. Curiously, the village of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and lived his entire life, was only about five miles north of Nain. Given the extensive networking that existed among the Jewish villages of the lower Galilee, it is very possible that Jesus personally knew this family.
The second reading is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Over the next five Sundays we will hear from Galatians. Written in late AD 55, the Letter to the Galatians is one of Paul’s most emotionally charged letters. He is angry over the news that the Galatian men (Gentile believers in Christ) were having themselves circumcised. Paul saw this action as a direct violation of the Gospel message he preached to them. For Paul, male circumcision, an outward sign (marking) of one’s allegiance to the Mosaic law, was not necessary for the Gentiles who professed faith in Christ. The Galatian circumcisions struck at the heart of the Pauline debate on faith versus the law.
Today’s reading is part of Paul’s autobiographical section in Galatians, 1:11-24. Paul rarely offers autobiographical information in his letters. But here, as part of his argument, Paul presents himself and his Gospel message as divinely authoritative: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul then writes about his transformative encounter with the risen Christ and his call to bring the good news of the crucified and resurrected Christ to the Gentiles. This direct encounter with Christ, in Paul’s view, gave him the authority to refer to himself as an “apostle,” and to preach with authority in the name of Christ.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz