Will you give the Lord what he asks?

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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C: June 9, 2013
1 Kgs 17:17-24; Ps 30; Gal 1:11-19; Luke 7:11-17

“Give me your son.” That’s the request that we heard the prophet Elijah make of the widow, in the first reading. And what a strange request it is, when we take it by itself: “Give me your son.” What? You don’t just give your son away to someone else, especially to some stranger who isn’t even part of the family.

And perhaps when you hear that phrase you think, as I do, of the terrible scandals that we have heard about for the last decade or so: of those priests who violated trust in abusing children, and those bishops who failed to adequately protect them. Trust was violated; and so it is that much harder to trust someone else with something as precious as your son—or anything else.

But still the request comes: “Give me your son.” And we see that the widow did it. Why? Well, one reason is that we already saw that this widow was surprisingly willing to trust Elijah and fulfill unusual and demanding requests from him. When she first met him, it was during this terrible drought and famine. He showed up in her village and asked for water and then some bread. She explained that she had only a little bit of flour and oil, the very last food that they had; and that she was about to bake it for her and her son to eat, their last food, after which they would starve. And he said, okay, but first make some for me. She did! And the Lord miraculously made it so that the jar of flour and the jug of oil never ran out but continued to supply them throughout the whole famine. Having seen that happen once, surely she was even more ready to trust when he later said, “Give me your son.”

But of course there is another reason. Her son had died; she had already lost him; and so giving him to Elijah meant only giving him his dead body. She gave him her son—and a short while later, after his words and actions of prayer, Elijah gave him to his mother, alive.

And something very similar happened in our Gospel reading, when our Lord encountered the funeral procession outside the town of Nain. And he was moved with pity for the weeping, widowed mother of this only son; and after he merely spoke a word of command, he too gave him to his mother, alive.

“Give me your son.” Would you give Jesus your son or daughter, if he asked? But you already have!—if you have brought them for baptism. For they were born—beautiful, wonderful; but spiritually dead, in the original sin that they inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve. And there was nothing you could do about this. “Give me your son,” Jesus said—and you did, bringing your son, your daughter, to the baptismal font. And our Lord raised them to life, washed them clean, united them to himself—and gave them back to you, now alive and transformed: still your son or daughter, yes, but also adopted as a son or daughter of God the Father, and made your brother or sister in Christ.

“Give me your son,” he said—and you did, and he gave him back to you, alive. “Give me yourself.” “Give me your sins”—and you have, every time you went to confession. “Give me your heart”—and you have, every time you have received Holy Communion. “Give me your strength”—and you have, in confirmation. “Give me your life”—and you have, in saying yes to the vocation to marriage. And he has given you life.

And today he says, “Give me your…” And what is he asking for? Maybe it is something that you gave once already; but you have taken it back; because that is the problem with being a living sacrifice; it is always possible to crawl back off the altar. Or maybe he is asking for something new, something beyond what you have given so far. What is it? It will be different for every person here.

Is he saying: Give me your son or daughter; give them the freedom to follow my vocation, my calling, to them? Is he saying: Give me your relationship? Give me your sin? Give me your plans? Maybe he is asking for your job; or for your family. Maybe he is asking you to reach out to someone else in generous love, in a way that will make you uncomfortable. Maybe he is asking you to change settled habits, or to hand over a prized possession.

Remember that what he asks of you, he asks in love and compassion: because he wants you to be free and full of joy. What he gives you in its place will be even better; perhaps the very thing you gave up, but now alive, transformed. When the altar is prepared, place that thing within your heart upon the altar, united with Christ.

“Give me your son,” he said. And he gave him back to his mother, alive.

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