Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This passage falls into a cycle of miracle stories that demonstrate the efficacy of God's word and the authenticity of the prophet Elijah. Here in chapter seventeen, the prophet has travelled into Phoenician territory - a foreign land that served Baal rather than the Lord. In ancient cultures, the gods were understood as territorial and it would therefore be a surprise if the representative of the God of Israel could work wonders here on alien soil among strangers. And yet, this will be the case.
The widow of Zarephath and her household benefit from the providential care of the Lord through their encounter with Elijah. Elijah has asked that the woman feed him from the last of her food in a time of famine. She does so and receives the promise that here flour and her oil will provide for her and her household until the end of the drought induced famine.
In the current verses, she experiences further calamity as her son sickens and dies. She expresses her fear that the power of this prophet in her household has brought the death upon her. She is a sinner in the presence of the holy prophet and she experiences her loss as a punishment for those sins. She does not appear to have any expectation that Elijah can assist her in her loss - her words are more lament than supplication. Nonetheless, Elijah will take the boy and pray to the Lord restore the boy to life. The Lord responds to the prayer and Elijah restores the son to his mother.
Now we see the power of the Lord's word and His prophet at work even here in the so-called territory of Baal. The Lord God of Israel is not limited by geography nor even by the boundaries of life and death. The woman's acclamation of Elijah in response is an expression of faith towards the God Who has done this great work for her.
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
This individual Psalm of thanksgiving celebrates God's power to deliver the faithful from death and restore them to life. It is probably a celebration of deliverance from mortal illness rather than a miraculous raising of the dead like the miracles recounted in today's readings. Nonetheless, it is a fitting acclamation of the Lord of Life.