1 Kings 17:17-24
Being Compassionate Prophets
As we return to Luke’s gospel today we find ourselves like the disciples whom Jesus met on the road to Emmaus. We hear a story that may move us as it first moved Jesus himself. It is kindling to keep our hearts burning within us!
The gospel is a companion to the story that is read on the preceding Sunday. There Jesus meets a delegation who come interceding for a centurion, a God fearing gentile, whose servant is near death. Like Elisha who healed the general Naaman, and like Elijah who healed the son of a widow from Sarepta, Jesus’ heals an army officer and raises to life the son of a widow. Today’s gospel, which is a story unique to Luke, and his placing both stories together underline the goal of Luke to have us see Jesus as a prophet.
In the verses following today’s miracle, disciples from John are given an answer to John the Baptist’s question, ‘are you the one who is coming or must we wait for another?’ ‘Tell John what you have seen and heard… dead people are being raised’ (7:22).
It is the compassion of Jesus, though, that jumps off the page of Scripture. Jesus ‘felt compassion toward her’. This is what can set our hearts aflame. Luke tells us that a father had this same feeling for his returning son who had taken his inheritance and squandered his money. This is the feeling of a Good Samaritan when he comes upon an injured and helpless robbery victim. Luke uses the same word to describe the feeling of compassion that Jesus experiences, something we have been instructed on earlier in the gospel, ‘become compassionate as your Father is compassionate’ (9:36).
At Baptism we are named priests and prophets. How do these titles take on meaning in our lives? Pope Francis spoke of Jesus the priest. (‘True Prayer Takes Us Out of Ourselves’ May 15, 2013). Trust in his passion, his victory, and his wounds. In the glorified body of Jesus the disfigurement of the Passion is no more, but the wounds remain. Jesus the priest offers the sacrifice of his wounds. "But….Look" they say to the Father. See the love I have shown, the love that you have for your adopted sons and daughters. This gives us confidence and courage to pray.
Today we can see how to be prophets. In Scripture prophets speak on behalf of the poor and they defend the defenseless. They advocate for justice. But Jesus shows the side of the prophet that is full of compassion. Hearts set on fire with compassion are hearts that will find a way to reach out to the poor and defenseless.
Let us become compassionate as our Father is compassionate; as Jesus is compassionate. As people of compassion we can fulfill our role as prophets by working in our daily lives to bring about what will give hope to the defenseless and poor.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.