Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Get up and eat"

In the Gospel today, we heard that

"Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death, saying: "This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb."

So here is Elijah, running from death at the decree of Jezebel, Ahab, the false prophets & co., and he's determined he can go no further. It's almost comical: he eats and drinks only to shut his eyes again and see if the Lord will take him up this time around. Then the Lord's angel comes and basically tells him to stop lolling around, he's got a journey to make and more work to do. It's a good warning; you might think you're finished, but God may very well have not finished with you, so don't throw in the towel prematurely.

It seems to me that a lot of readings recently depict people who believe they are at the end of their strength, and ask God for death. Moses, for example-

"Where can I get meat to give to all this people? For they are crying to me, 'Give us meat for our food.' I cannot carry all this people by myself, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress."

And the newly-freed-from-Egypt Israelites grumbled, saying "Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!"

Yet before all of them there still stretched a long road, and the Lord fed, strengthened, and spurred them on to their tasks.

In today's sermon, Fr. Jorge said that God is always sending us out to the desert to do battle with the devil, with temptation, with our own weaknesses. It would be comfortable for us, no doubt, to sit at the kitchen table (with a nice book, perhaps) and think nice thoughts instead, but there is no victory without a fight. We can not really see ourselves, and all our beliefs and ideas remain untested, until we are in the desert- adversity- faced with hardships and hard decisions.

Meanwhile, I'm re-reading G.K. Chesterton's short book on St. Francis of Assisi, in which he makes several insights into the remarkable saint's life and actions. We have so many strong, courageous, vivacious, joyful role models to look to!

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