domenica 5 giugno 2016

«Deus visitavit plebem suam»

Last Sunday the gospel told us a story of healing; today, of resurrection. While in the gospels there are many cases of healing, we find only three episodes of resurrection: the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, reported by all the Synoptics; the resurrection of Lazarus, narrated only by John; and the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, related by Luke alone. Of course, raising from the dead is the greatest miracle that can be performed. It is common to expect the healing of a sick person; but usually nobody expects the resurrection of a dead person. When Lazarus died, some people said: “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” (Jn 11:37). According to them, Jesus had the power to restore to health, not the one to restore to life.

Last time Jesus performed the miracle because he was pleaded by the centurion and by the elders of the Jews. In this case nobody asks anything of him. Jesus just witnesses the heartbreaking scene of a funeral: it is the only son of a widowed mother. Maybe, nobody recognizes Jesus; everybody is seized by compassion for that woman left alone. Jesus cannot be unmoved by the suffering of  a mother. He shows here all his humanity. The gospel says: “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her.” Notice: Luke calls Jesus “the Lord,” which is his divine title; but then he displays him as a man, who experiences human feelings. We are here in front of the mystery of Jesus Christ, true God and true man: as a man, he is moved with pity; as God, he raises the young man from the dead.

As we were saying, nobody asks him to intervene; he does it on his own initiative. The only reason why Jesus performs the miracle is his compassion. He bypasses the laws of ritual purity, which dictate not to touch a corpse; he stops the procession and orders the dead young man: “I tell you, arise!” Do you remember what the centurion had said? “Only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” Even in this case, a word is enough: “Arise!” Jesus is God; he is the Lord of life and death; everything obeys his orders. “Arise!” And the young man arises.

People are stunned by the sight. They experience two kinds of feelings: they are seized by fear, because they realize that something extraordinary has happened; and they glorify God, because only God can resurrect the dead. But they do not come to the conclusion that Jesus is God; for them he is just a man of God, a prophet: “A great prophet has arisen in our midst.” They know that in the past only great prophets, like Elijah and Elisha, had done something similar. We have heard in the first reading the narrative of the resurrection of the son of the widow of Zarephath. So Jesus is like those great prophets; through him “God has visited his people.” God never forsakes his people; he usually shows his concern by sending them prophets. But they do not realize that their statement this time takes on a literal meaning: God in person has visited his people; the one they see in front of them is not just a great prophet, he is God himself.