God means for us to wear out, then come to him.

Tuesday, 9/13/11

In the Gospel Jesus and his disciples were coming near to the town of Nain when they met with a funeral procession. People in the throng pointed out a woman who was the chief mourner. They told Jesus and his companions that the woman was a poor widow, and the dead man was her only son. On hearing that, Jesus was filled with pity for the woman, and he told her, “Do not weep.”

The dead boy was lying uncovered on the framework of branches they had for carrying him, so when Jesus came up close he could touch the corpse. As he did, he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”

The young man sat up, and he began talking. If you were dramatizing the scene you might have the boy ask, “Where am I?”

We don’t know what he said. Jesus took him by the hand, and he led him to his mother.

Let me tell one of my old Korean stories in which nothing happens. I was walking in the hills with a few parishioners when we met a colorful funeral processions. The young men were carrying colored flags on long bamboo poles, and the crowd was murmuring Buddhist prayers. I had the thought that this would be a fine time for a miracle. I kind of asked, “What about it, God?” But nothing happened.

Twenty or thirty years ago Pentecostal and Charismatic groups were more prominent than they are now, and everyone was talking about miracles. Prayer groups were ranked based on the number of cures their prayers had brought about.

Maybe this is sour grapes on my part. Maybe this is my excuse for having no prayer power, but I don’t think we should interfere with God’s ordinary provisions. He has inspired many nurses and doctors to do their best at keeping us ticking. But, then, he has included planned obsolescence in our make-up. He means for us to wear out, and to then go on to something better.

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