‘I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me. O Lord, you have rescued my soul from the dead, restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.” The psalms frequently describe a life lived without God as a kind of death, a sinking into the depths of a grave that is without hope.
We are indeed fortunate if in our journey of faith we have not experienced such moments. These are the times when, either through our own sinfulness or for reasons beyond our understanding, we experience faith as darkness, seemingly bereft of God’s sustaining presence.
This does indeed feel like the death, the sinking into unimaginable depths described by the psalmist. Such psalms, while they give full weight to the abandonment that we experience, are always concluded with the affirmation of a God whose light is greater than our darkness, whose life is greater than our death. “At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn. You have changed my mourning into dancing. O Lord my God, I will thank you forever.”
Throughout the Old Testament the God of Israel was worshipped as the Lord of Life. It is within this context, the proclamation of God as the giver of life, that we must understand the prophet Elijah’s encounter with the widow of Zarephath.
Already, through the miraculous multiplication of meal and oil in time of famine, the God of Israel had been revealed as the food of life. Now, with the death of the widow’s only son, the God of Israel would be revealed as the conqueror of death itself. “The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned to him and he revived. And the woman replied: ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.’”
The resurrection of the widow’s son, summoned to life by the Word of God, was a foreshadowing of Christ, in whose Resurrection all are summoned to new life.
We see this new life at work in Paul’s description of his conversion. In his previous life he had been a practising Jew, merciless in his persecution of the Church, zealous for the traditions of his ancestors. The inner transformation that took place in the grace of his conversion was nothing less than the gift of new life.
“Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the good news about him to the pagans.”
During this year of faith, let us entrust ourselves anew to the Father, who calls us to new life as his Son is revealed in us. The account of Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain was understood as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. “A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.”
The Christ who was revealed at Nain as the Lord of life continues to visit his people. Let us turn to him in faith, confident that he summons his people to new life as he is revealed in us.