10th Ordinary Sunday – MERITORIOUS & GRATUITOUS
10th Ordinary Sunday
1Kg 17: 17-24 Gal 1: 11-19 Lk 7: 11-17
MERITORIOUS & GRATUITOUS
Let us progressively open ourselves to the grace of God which is ever-present.
The miracles mentioned in the first reading and the gospel today have got many similarities: (a) Those who died were the only sons of their mothers (b) Both were of young age (c) Both mothers were widows (d) Both were inconsolable, and (e) Both had their sons resuscitated back in a miraculous manner. These two incidents have got similarity with yet another event that was yet to come i.e. Jesus’ own death on the cross. (a) Jesus was the only son of Mary (b) He was of young age (c) Mary was a widow (d) She was inconsolable, and (e) Jesus knew that God would raise him up on the third day.
There are also dissimilarities between these three events. The widow of Zarephath was hospitable towards Elijah and it was this generous act of hospitality that drew the attention of Elijah and got her son resuscitated. In contrast, the widow of Nain did not do anything specific to get the attention of Jesus. In fact, she did not even place a request to Jesus, nor did he ask her his usual question ‘Do you believe?’. May be, when Jesus looked at her, what could have come to his mind was the pathetic condition of his mother at the foot of the cross. He could have perceived the immense sorrow of his mother in the widow of Nain. This might have spontaneously moved him to do something for the inconsolable widow.
The basic message of the first reading and the gospel is that God is interested in human affairs, and is ready to deliver human beings from those things that limit their lives. We don’t believe in a God who lives somewhere far off in heaven without interacting with human beings, but in the One who constantly mingles with human beings and help them to live their lives better. God continues to pour out his grace all the time so that we, human beings, live our lives joyfully. The grace God offers is sometimes meritorious (i.e. earned) as in the case of the widow of Zarephath, and other times gratuitous (i.e. given freely) as in the case of the widow of Nain.
St. Paul, in the second reading, informs us that he too was privileged to experience God’s grace. He speaks of God as ‘the one who set him apart before he was born’ and as ‘the one who called him by His grace.’ In Paul’s case, the grace bestowed upon him was both meritorious and gratuitous. It was meritorious because he was taking his life seriously. However misguided he was before his conversion, we can’t question his sincerity in adhering to what he believed to be right. He himself claims, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extreme zealous was I for the tradition of my fathers.” It can be said that it was this earnestness and sincerity to his belief that helped him to find the truth. However it is also gratuitous. He often claims that though he was a sinner and unworthy God bestowed upon him grace (2Cor 12: 9; Eph 3: 7; 1Tim 1: 14).
God’s help is available, not only for a selected few, but for everyone. We need to continuously strive to make it ours. Even if it is gratuitous, if we are not open to it, then we will waste it. Tiruvalluvar, a famous Tamil poet, in one of his couplets says, “The wealth of grace (arulselvam) is the greatest of all forms of wealth. The material wealth is nothing. Even the basest of men have it.”
It is said that the difference between tin and gold is this! A tin piece does not much allow the ray of light into itself. On the other hand, a gold piece, because of its molecular structure, allows the ray of light into itself multi-dimensionally. It is this multi-dimensional reflection of the ray of the light that is responsible for the shining of the gold. A Christian is the one who, like gold, should allow the grace of God into oneself and allow it flash all through one’s being.