Luke and MeWhat a joy it was to meet my new nephew, Luke! I always feel younger than my age because of my work with children and young people and the contact I have with my own nephews and nieces. Children bring us such joy and such hope for the future, don’t they?

Unfortunately, we travel through life with our own age cohort for the most part. Schools tend to segregate us by age. Then, we go off to college, another world apart. Our social lives continue this trend more or less, until we reach retirement and find places to live with other retirees. As senior citizens, we may end our time on this earth segregated again in a nursing home or alone at home. Although it is never this clear cut, the broad lines are there. We don’t live like other societies where the generations freely interact and live together. Too bad! Intergenerational interaction shouldn’t be limited to those who are fortunate enough to have nearby children, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren of their own. We are all enriched when the various generations live together without unnecessary barriers. This is what it means to be a human family.

Jesus interacted with people of all ages. He said, “Let the children come to me” (Matt. 19:14) when his apostles tried to keep them away. On the other end of the spectrum, he understood the grief and loneliness that older members of society sometimes feel. In today’s Gospel, Jesus encounters the widow of Nain who was in the throes of grief over the loss of her only son. How alone she must have felt!Raising of Lazarus by Pittoni Could anyone really understand her pain? And how vulnerable she might be in that particular culture having no man to support her! Like Elijah before him, Jesus understood and was moved with compassion. He touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” And the young man, like Lazarus, came back to life and was reunited with his mother.

The story touches me because I know a lot of mothers and fathers who have lost children. A sister-in-law has had miscarriages. A couple at the school where I taught had a son die on the football field and then, almost five years later, another son die in a lake, both of cardiac incidents. We all know far too many parents who have lost kids to car crashes, overdoses, and suicide. As we just celebrated Memorial Day, we collectively remembered those who sacrificed for the love of liberty and the defense of our country. When I read about Elijah’s prayer being answered to raise the dead, or about Jesus restoring life to a widow’s son, I sometimes think, why not now? Why not still? The pain is as deep as ever, and we need the compassion of God!

Unlike Elijah and Jesus, I think we more often feel helpless in the face of tragedy. We are like the rescue worker who tried to save a refugee girl from drowning but was unsuccessful. He brought the girl’s life jacket to Pope Francis, who used it in his catechesis with children. “He brought me this jacket,” the pontiff said, showing the life jacket to the children, “and with tears in his eyes he said to me, ‘Father, I couldn’t do it – there was a little girl on the waves, and I did all I could, but I couldn’t save her: only her life vest was left.’”

Morning RejoicingWhat, then, do we make of the stories in the Bible? We know that an encounter with Jesus can restore life to the body (the widow’s son) and to the soul (the conversion of St. Paul). What we must also realize is that encountering Jesus is encountering the very reign of God. It is eschatological. Miracles are signs of a future that Christ has unfailingly ushered in, but that we must work for and await with faith, hope, and love. As Gabriel Marcel reminds us, “Jesus is a memory of the future.” What he has done, he will do. Others felt the power of the Reign of God. We will feel it as well. “At nightfall, weeping enters in,” said the psalmist, but we await the morning, for there is, “with the dawn, rejoicing.” On that day, we too will say, “You have turned my mourning into dancing… forever will I give thanks.” We read the Bible wrong when we think it is only about the past. It is, rather, a window into the future which gives us, in the present, that most powerful gift in the face of tragedy: Hope.

  • Ray Raboin
    Posted at 15:27h, 03 June

    This is an outstanding article! I use to read the gospel like a religious history book! Then I realized that Jesus lives today! He has dramatically shown this fact in various apparitions. The bread and wine becomes His Body and Blood! His greatest pain is the indifference we show when we view Him on the cross. All of us experience this when we go to communion. Jesus clearly indicated that He would spit out people who are neither hot or cold but only luke warm! His Divine Mercy goes ignored!

    • Kevin Dowd
      Posted at 18:09h, 03 June

      Thank you, Ray! It is indeed a Living Word.

  • Dianne Gustowski
    Posted at 22:03h, 03 June

    A very wise woman once told me, “God is not hampered by time nor space.” I also heard on Mother Angelica Live, “God lives in the eternal now.” These two statements have helped so many times over the years deal with both tragedy and joy. I know what it is like to sit at someone’s bedside and pray for a miracle. The first time, that miracle occurred. The second time, it was not us that received the miracle; it was the people who are alive because of my niece’s organ donations upon her death. Regardless of the outcome, Jesus stays close to us, shares in both our joys and sorrows. Thanks for the well written blog! You are batting a thousand.

    • Kevin Dowd
      Posted at 17:52h, 06 June

      Dianne, I know how difficult those tough times are when God gives a miracle in a different way than we had hoped for. The key is, as you say, that Jesus is with us through it all. Thanks for your kind comments and your sharing.

  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 22:45h, 03 June

    Kevin, thank you once again for allowing God to work through you.
    You have gone from the joy of little Luke, your nieces and nephews and all the young people you work so conscientiously with to a profound experience of the Gospel Message of Hope. It is a gift from God that we must all foster to go about our daily lives, especially when we reach out to share that hope with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
    When contemplating the Reign of God we cannot deny that each day we experience His Love and Renewed Hope., We often use a phrase “Hope springs eternal”. It might seem trite and over used but there is truth in it..
    I do believe that Hope is what God is continually telling us in the stories of the Bible. Scripture is telling us about Hope. Our Triune God is always with us and is full of surprises-they may not be what we expect but He leaves it to us to figure it out and how each Scriptue account relates to each of us personally and brings us enormous Hope in our lives and closer to Him.
    Thank you Kevin Dowd and Bayard for reminding us of the Power and Awe encompassed in the Reign of God.!

    • Kevin Dowd
      Posted at 17:51h, 06 June

      Yes–God is full of surprises! Thanks, Mamie for your comments. You are always so thoughtful.