Love of God changes mourning to dancing
By Father Tom Kelly
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/June 5
1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11,12,13; Galatians 1:11-19; Luke 7:11-17
In Sunday’s Gospel, we have the miracle story of Jesus bringing the son of the widow of Nain back to life. In the first reading from the Old Testament, we find a similar story. God, acting through the prophet Elijah, brings back to life a dead boy.
The message: Love is stronger than death.
This dynamic is illustrated by the following excerpts from “You Are My Sunshine.” Written by William J. Bausch, the story appears in “The Word In and Out of Season”:
“Karen and her husband found out that another baby was on the way, and they wanted to help their 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for the arrival of a new sibling. So day after day, they gather Michael in their arms and prompt him to sing to his little sister in Mommy’s tummy. He sings the only song he knows, ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ He sings it day after day, night after night.
“The pregnancy progresses normally, but a complication arises during delivery. After hours of labor, Michael’s little sister is born, but she is in serious condition and is rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit of the local hospital. Day by day the little girl gets worse and the nurses tell the parents to be prepared. They start making funeral plans.
“Michael begs his parents to let him see his little sister so he can sing to her, but children are not allowed in the NICU. Karen ignores the rules and tells the nurse, ‘He is not leaving until he sings to his sister.’ She brings Michael to his sister’s bedside. He gazes at the tiny infant losing the battle to live and begins to sing, ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine/You make me happy when skies are gray/You’ll never know dear, how much I love you/Please don’t take my sunshine away.’
“Slowly, but surely, the baby’s strained breathing becomes as smooth as a kitten’s purr. The mother urges Michael to keep on singing: ‘The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping/I dreamed I held you in my arms. . . . You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. . . . Please don’t take my sunshine away.’
“The little girl relaxes as rest, healing rest, seems to sweep over her. Funeral plans are scrapped. The next day, the little girl is well enough to go home.”
I can remember when I was first ordained, the Mass was in Latin. The daily Mass we celebrated was always for the dead, a Requiem Mass. In the preface for that Mass there was an expression, in morte vita mutatur non tollitur, which means, “In death life is changed, not ended.”
Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead, and God’s love is stronger than death.
FATHER TOM Kelly, a former pastor in Ottawa and Bartonville and chaplain at the Newman Foundations at the University of Illinois in Champaign and Bradley University in Peoria, is a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria. He resides in Peoria.