Our Mass readings this week-end and next focus our attention on Life and Love. And the two are intimately connected, of course. True love is life-giving, and life-affirming. And what could life be for a human being that was not grounded in love, and a living fountain of love? Who would want to live a loveless life? Truly to love well is to live well. To refuse to love is to squander one’s life. The unloving life is not worth living.
This week we hear readings from the Book of Kings and from St. Luke’s Gospel that speak to us about life. As one can tell if s/he pays close attention to the readings, there are multiple meanings of “life.” The prophet Elijah restores a young boy’s life through his prayer to the God of Life, and his mother sees proof of the creative, life-giving power of the word of God. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus similarly restores one to life, in this case a young man, but once again, the only son of a widowed mother. Jesus’ action bespeaks divine mercy, as the LORD has pity on the widow. Without her son, she would be forced to beg on the street. At the same time, multiple meanings of life are present in the story, and each meaning should be of concern to us.
Life: there is the life of the body, biological life, without which we are cold, still, motionless, physically dead. From the perspective of our existence on earth, this meaning of life is primary, foremost, and highly to be treasured. Biological life is a gift and joy far more precious than wealth. Only a fool would trade life for passing pleasures, or for “getting high,” or for making money.
Beyond biological life, there is spiritual life. Both show up on one’s body, on the face. Where there is not just biological life, but spiritual life, what shows up is joy, energy, kindness, attentiveness, sweetness, and even—for those with eyes to see—the glory of God shining on a human face. Spiritual life is communal, the fruit of communing with “God as one understands him,” with the source and energy at work throughout all of creation. One must undergo many conversions, many changes of heart, to be truly alive in spirit. It comes to those who love, deeply and well. Spiritual life is life lived now, in the moment, in communion with God.
A third meaning of Life portrayed in the Gospel passage is life eternal. Both spiritual life and eternal life are essentially a sharing in God’s life, in the God who is Life eternal. But the Gospel story has Jesus raise a young man from the dead in words bespeaking resurrection.The story is intended to be a sign of future glory: a sign of the God who calls the dead back to life, and who bestows on his beloved the fullness of life beyond death: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” is beautifully portrayed in the Lucan story. Life beyond the grave, beyond physical life-death, is the fullness of spiritual life, as one is fully immersed in the sea of divinity, the sea of divine Life. As Jesus declares: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; to Him all are alive.” And to this One we say, “L’Chaim!,” “To Life!”