Taking refuge in the Lord
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I can understand Elijah.
There have been times in my life when, like Elijah in today’s first reading,
I felt simply overwhelmed
by situations, people and problems
as well as my apparent inability to deal with them.
I may never have seriously contemplated suicide,
but there have been times when I thought it wouldn’t be too bad
if I went to sleep and never woke up.
I suspect that
I’m not the only person reading or hearing this that has felt that way.
Elijah was faced with a pretty unmanageable situation.
He had been a faithful prophet in Israel.
He proclaimed a message that few,
especially those in power, wanted to hear.
He decried idolatry, injustice and corruption in all their forms.
With God’s help, he faced down hundreds of prophets of Baal.
What was his reward?
Indeed, the king and especially the queen wanted him dead.
He fled to the desert and,
in a state of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion
he prayed that God would take his life.
God, needless to say, didn’t oblige Elijah.
Instead, God fed him and encouraged him.
With the strength that came from a gift of bread from heaven,
Elijah got up and continued on his journey.
It was a journey that would end
with a quiet but powerful personal encounter with God on a mountain
and a call to return to his mission.
Jesus understood his people,
especially those who murmured or grumbled against him
just as their ancestors did against his Father, Moses and Aaron
during their Exodus from Egypt.
Their murmuring was not caused by grumbling stomachs
but rather by a lack of understanding
and ultimately a lack of faith.
Most of them couldn’t wrap their minds and hearts around Jesus
telling them that he was the bread of life,
“the living bread that came down from heaven,”
a bread that could give them eternal life.
How do we respond to the bread of life?
What are we thinking as we approach the altar to receive
the Body and Blood of Christ?
When we receive the Eucharist,
how does it sit in our hearts as well as our stomachs?
What difference, really, does our communion make?
For St. Paul, it made a huge difference.
He hoped that it would make a similar difference in the church at Ephesus.
Acknowledging that they had been
“sealed for the day of redemption” in baptism,
he expected them to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit
by getting rid of the moldy yeasts of “fury, anger, shouting and reviling.” Instead, their relationships should be marked
by kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
How we treat others is inevitably a reflection of how we see ourselves.
Recently—and shockingly to some—
Pope Francis ordered a revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to say that use of the death penalty was “never admissible.”
Not just inadvisable or sinful
but “never admissible.”
He rooted this decision not in politics or social science research
but rather in the inherent dignity of the human person
from the moment of conception to the time of natural death.
As Elijah experienced in the desert
and as thousands who were fed by Jesus
saw in the miracle of the loaves and fishes,
God loves us—often more than we love ourselves.
God doesn’t need to take our lives.
They already belong to him.
Even in the most difficult of times, may we still be able
to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
May we never forget or fear to take refuge in Him. +