Friday, August 7, 2009

Get Up and Eat

(19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)

Elijah, in the course of fleeing for his life from Ahab and Jezebel, gets tired. He gives up. He prays for death, and goes to sleep under a tree. The angel comes to him, not with an invitation, but a command: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” The food the angel provides strengthens Elijah to walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God.

Now when we hear this account of the man of God Elijah, right away we see ourselves in the story. We are in the same position. Our lives, like Elijah’s flight, can seem like a tiring journey. We are constantly threatened by sickness, insecurity, relationships that don’t work, and so many other hard things. The world around us isn’t very encouraging either; increasingly violent and aimless, a world without God or even respect for life or nature leaves us all a little more empty of motivation.

Now probably not a lot of us, faced with the terrors and troubles of this life, are going to totally give up and lie down and pray for death like Elijah did. Nevertheless, there are lots of subtle ways in which we can tempted to give up. Perhaps we see the social problems of our neighborhoods or our nation and they seem overwhelming, so we withdraw from our privilege of being active citizens locally and nationally. Maybe we notice here at Mass that there are a lot Catholics missing from the Lord’s assembly, but we don’t ask the Holy Spirit to show us opportunities to challenge the lapsed Catholics we know to be faithful to the promises of their baptism. In religious life or the priesthood we can tempted to just live our own journey as best we can, while ignoring the malaise and the decadence around us, and thinking that the scandal some religious and priests give to the world is somebody else’s business.

In the Lord’s own words, we Christians, no matter what our state in life, are meant to be light, salt, and leaven for the world. We are called by our baptism into Christ to be a force for the enlightenment and transformation of the world as it makes its way into the Kingdom of God.

This is a very tall order. It will not be easy, and left to ourselves and our own lights and strengths, of course we would give up. So God says to us, as the angel said to Elijah, “Get up and eat” and be fortified for your journey. This is God’s response to the mess we have made of our lives and this world: not a magical fix, but a desire to share with us his own divine life and power, so that we might take responsibility for ourselves. This is the word that comes to us here at Mass, “Get up and eat.” Here we receive the strengthening nourishment we need to fulfill our vocation of holiness and Christian leadership during our earthly journey.

In the Eucharist we receive the divine nourishment we need to let go of fear and walk boldly through troubled lives and a lost and violent world. As Jesus says, “the one who believes has eternal life.” Not, ‘will have eternal life,’ but has eternal life. Now. In our Holy Communion the eternal and indestructible Life and Creativity that is God himself comes to live in our hands, in our bodies, and in our lives. The fruit of this for us is twofold. First, our communion with Christ unites us to his dying and rising, and gives us the confidence that we will share in his Resurrection. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Second, by receiving the Bread of Life we make a home for divine power and creativity in ourselves, and so far from giving up, we are empowered to become the light and leaven for this world, challenged to lead ourselves and all our suffering brothers and sisters out of darkness and gloom into the blessed light and peace of the Kingdom of God.

So if we are ever tempted to give up, let us listen to the words of the angel as we prepare to make our Holy Communion, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.”

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I know it is a little bit off your point, but your point reminds me of a Sufi story. A man was walking through a desert, where he was stranded and making his way home. God sent an angel with replacement food and water and the instructions to give them to the man when his current supply ran out. The man, however, afraid of running out, refused to finish his food and water and ultimately died from lack of both. The angel, standing by with the replenishments, should his head and muttered, "How strange are the children of Adam!"

I would add: and how little they trust their Father who would take care of them if they would just trust Him to do so.