Thanksgiving: Catholic homily outline for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Francis Stevens "Raising the Widow's Son" (1781-1823) Kenton Church of All Saints

Francis Stevens “Raising the Widow’s Son” (1781-1823) Kenton Church of All Saints

Central idea: A great prophet has arisen. God has visited his people. Doctrine: Christ frees creation from sin and death. Practical application: Prayers of thanksgiving.

To view Lectionary 90, click here.

Central idea: A great prophet has arisen. God has visited his people.

Reading 1 1 Kgs 17:17-24

Elijah went to Zarephath of Sidon to the house of a widow.
The son of the mistress of the house fell sick,
and his sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing.
So she said to Elijah,
“Why have you done this to me, O man of God?
Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt
and to kill my son?”
Elijah said to her, “Give me your son.”
Taking him from her lap, he carried the son to the upper room
where he was staying, and put him on his bed.
Elijah called out to the LORD:
“O LORD, my God,
will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying
by killing her son?”
Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times
and called out to the LORD:
“O LORD, my God,
let the life breath return to the body of this child.”
The LORD heard the prayer of Elijah;
the life breath returned to the child’s body and he revived.
Taking the child, Elijah brought him down into the house
from the upper room and gave him to his mother.
Elijah said to her, “See! Your son is alive.”
The woman replied to Elijah,
“Now indeed I know that you are a man of God.
The word of the LORD comes truly from your mouth.”

  • It is part of the wound in fallen human nature that when something terrible happens someone must be to blame. The widow blamed herself (“my guilt”) and the prophet Elijah (God’s punisher) for her son’s death. In prayer, Elijah privately blamed himself and God for this evil.
  • Elijah’s return of Zarephath’s son to her was not just the inestimable gift of a loved and needed only son to a widow but a confirmation that Elijah was “a man of God” from whose mouth “the word of the Lord” issues.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the nether world;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

  • Just as it is characteristic of fallen human nature to blame oneself and others for evils, it is also common to make (or imagine one has made) enemies. These enemies do (or we imagine they do) rejoice over the evils we suffer. That is another evil the sufferer suffers.
  • When evils befall us and we feel helpless to do anything about them, then we turn to the Lord for help. Many people attempt to make deals with God under these circumstances. Some never think of God at all until disaster strikes. Others always have their eyes on God, which is the way we should be.
  • Our eyes are always on God to assist us in all those things we are powerless to accomplish ourselves but which he can do. We can call upon God in every single need. Preeminently, we need Him for the forgiveness of our sins and for our salvation from death.
  • We all know the joy of disaster averted. And we know that the greatest joy possible will be salvation from sin and death in heaven.

Reading 2 Gal 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19

I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race.
But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem
to talk with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.

  • The Apostles are prophets chosen by Christ and formed by Him and then by the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul testifies that he fits this mold but that he was chosen and taught by the Resurrected Christ.
  • Still he went to Peter, the head of the Church Christ founded, and James, who was the head of the local church in Jerusalem, “so that I might not be running, or have run, in vain” (Gal 2:2).
  • Paul is presenting his credentials to the Galatians. But what he says applies to us, as well. The Gospel we have received—the same Gospel preached by the Twelve and by St. Paul—“is not of human origin . . . but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christ himself, along with everything he did and taught, is the complete and final revelation of God to mankind in this life.

Gospel Lk 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, crying out
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst, “
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.

  • For the Jews, a true prophet is sent to God’s Chosen People only by God himself. So, if a great prophet has arisen in Israel, then it is all God’s doing.
  • When the people to say, “God has visited his people,” they mean that God has used this prophet to show Himself to them. God has made himself known through the miracle the Lord performed in giving this dead only son back to his widowed mother.
  • The people who witnessed this miracle could not know at that time that their words were true in an even more literal sense than they imagined. God truly was visiting his people, because the prophet performing this miracle and teaching these things was God himself, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
  • The Lord “was moved with pity” for this widow who had lost her only son. Jesus showed God’s mercy by raising this woman’s son to life so she could have him back and so he could love, protect, and support her.

Doctrine: Christ frees creation from sin and death

  • The Catechism affirms that the most characteristic prayer of the Church is thanksgiving, profound gratitude. (CCC 2637)
  • The Church’s most characteristic prayer is the celebration of the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving.” In celebrating the Eucharist, the Church reveals to the world who she is, the Body of Christ, and more fully becomes this Body. (CCC 2637)
  • This thanksgiving is not just in regard to what Christ has done for the members of his Church. Rather, it extends to the whole of creation. “Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory” (CCC 2637). In God’s material creation, only man can consciously, knowingly offer up this thanks. Only man can do this because only he is a person, with a rational nature with intellect and free will. Non-living creatures and living creatures without rationality cannot utter this thanks: that is our task.
  • Christ is filled with thanksgiving due to the infinite treasure of his Divine Nature and the inner life of the Blessed Trinity he shares. He is also thankful due to what he has done for man and for creation. So we, too, are properly thankful: “The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head” (CCC 2637).

Practical application: Prayers of Thanksgiving

  • After teaching us that thanksgiving is the characteristic prayer of the Church, the Catechism reminds us “every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving.” As St. Paul advises: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18) and “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2). (CCC 2638)
  • It is wise each day to count off one’s blessings. Each of us has many good things he enjoys and is blessed with. If we name these to God daily, not only will we be performing acts of thanksgiving, but we will become more grateful and happier persons. We will develop the virtue of gratitude.
  • But our faith tells us that “every event . . . can become an offering of thanksgiving” (CCC 2639). Every event? Not everything that comes our way is positively willed by God, but everything is permitted by God. God permits evil so he can bring a greater good out of it. As St. Thomas says, quoting St. Augustine: “‘Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.’ This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” (ST 1, q. 1, a. 3, r.1) Whether or not we can see the good God is drawing out of the evil, we can give thanks for that good in advance.
  • The same is true of every need. “Every . . . need can become an offering of thanksgiving” (CCC 2639). What are some ways that our needs are things to be thankful for?
    • Needs remind us that we are not God but humble creatures of God. We are not autonomous or self-sufficient.
    • Needs give us an opportunity to be the children of the good God that we are. Children have the right to ask their Father for what they want and need.
    • The Beatitudes (Mt 5) are a catalogue of needs of the believer that make one blessed.
    • In our needs we are like Christ who emptied himself of his divine glory in becoming man, who emptied himself of food for forty days in the desert, and who emptied himself of bodily life on the Cross.
    • In your own practice of offering up your needs, you will probably discover more reasons to be grateful for them.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

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