The readings today can be summed up in three short words: Don’t Give Up.
Don’t give up... not ever... no matter what it is that you’re facing.
And when you think about it, almost every person at some point needs to hear those words. We need that reminder. No matter what your age:
- If you’re in school and a look at the calendar or the non-stop Back to School ads have snapped you out of the Summer lull to realize a new Academic Year is coming up and failures or difficulties from the past start to eat up on you;
- If you’re out of school, working day in day out in this uncertain economy in this complex world where words like“stable” and “job” are being used together less and less frequently is filling you with anxiety or your dissatisfied with things as they are;
- If you’re married, with kids worried about their future not to mention your own...
- If you’re alone - maybe divorced, maybe widowed and just that forced solitude wears on you...
- If you’re ill and the pain, the suffering, the unknown has you filled with fear or anxiety.
In all of those different experiences that people are faced with and that we can find ourselves bringing before the Lord in our prayers, the Word of God today says very simple words, but bold words that are meant to be hopeful - Don’t Give up.
Just look at what we’ve just heard. Often times when I’m preparing a homily, I’m naturally drawn to the Gospel and jump off that. But today’s first reading is a real doosy. We hear from the Old Testament book of Kings and we’re hearing about one of God’s prophets named Elijah. As one of God’s prophets, Elijah had a pretty straightforward job - to proclaim God’s word to His people. Straightforward, yes... Easy, not by a long shot. Why? Well if you wanted to learn where the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” came from, it had to have been the prophets! Which makes sense. If people were doing God’s will, following His commands, living by the covenant that they had agreed to with Him, there would be no reason to send a messenger. People would be in right, good relationship with the Lord. So prophets are constantly speaking words to people that they didn’t necessarily want to hear.
In this case, the people who don’t want to hear what the prophet has to say (and in effect, what the Lord wants to say) is a person - a powerful person – Queen Jezebel. And one of the reasons the name Jezebel has negative connotations is because of this episode. She is so ticked off at Elijah that she’s sent murderous henchmen out to take him out once and for all. So Elijah’s on the run for his life. He finally comes to this desert, finds this tree and as he is catching his breath for a moment what does he pray:
This is enough O Lord - Take my life!
There’s something consoling to know that a revered prophet who’s life and words are forever remembered in the Sacred Scriptures had a bad day, isn’t it? Because as the People of God in our day and age - I think we’re afraid to admit that we can get tired... We can grow weary... The world around us seems to be spinning out of control. People seem polarized, tense, angry about lists of issues. And for those trying to live a good, decent life, we can appreciate the prophet’s sentiments.
But what does the Lord do for Elijah? Does he scold him for his lack of faith, for being weary, for saying words that strike us as blasphemous? No, he doesn’t do any of that.
Does the Lord magically take care of all that troubles Elijah? Does he send that Jezebel where she belongs? Smiting or smoting Elijah’s adversaries? No he doesn’t do that either. The Lord sends a messenger, an angel to Elijah’s side ordering to eat and drink not once, but twice with the words - “Get up, eat, or else the journey is going to be too long for you.” Don’t Give up Elijah.... Yes, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord - not just Elijah, but you and I sang those words of the psalm today in response to that reading.
Even St. Paul in that second reading seems to be speaking those same words - Don’t give up. Last week and this week’s passages (and some verses that the lectionary skipped in between) from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about the difficulty for us to resist very human temptations, and human failures. He notes how we are in this struggle between feelings of“bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling... malice” and striving to be imitators of God as beloved children and to live in love. But Paul’s confident we can do it if we don’t give up and draw upon the gifts of God.
The greatest of the gifts of God is revealed to us in the Gospel. Unlike Elijah receiving a simple hearth cake and a jug of water, Jesus offers himself to us as THE bread from heaven that you and I are to feast on both in this word we are hearing now and in the bread and wine which becomes His Body and Blood. It is He himself that He wants us to eat, to nourish on, to consume in our body’s and souls so much so that when we are worn down, tired, when we feel the world has abandoned and forgotten us – when the day to day struggles and trials blind us to his presence make us forget his promises and make us feel like we’re never going to get ahead, we will still hear his invitation calling out to us to feast on his Flesh - enabling us to live forever – promising us he will not abandon us, not now or ever... If we believe in Him, we can listen to him as He tells us:
don’t grow weary,
don’t give in,
don’t lose heart,
don’t lose focus,
... don’t give up.
+ Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed to the Newman Catholic Summer Appeal 2012. We are about 50% towards our fund raising goal which will go towards two beautiful new outdoor statues that students will pass as they walk to and from campus through the Newman Center property. To help - please check out www.MSUNEWMAN.com