The prophet Elijah suffers severe depression about 2,900 years ago. And some of us thought that Freud ‘invented’ depression by studying and describing it in the early 20th century? The bestselling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho wrote a novel about a passage from the First Book of Kings, our First Reading this week, The Fifth Mountain. There are inevitable moments of misfortune which interrupt our lives, when it looks like the world has conspired against us. The Story of Elijah can be a lesson of hope for us today. In despair Elijah asked God to take his life. Despite his loss of faith, God sent an angel to comfort him and provide food and drink. To his credit, Elijah, responded positively, not however, before he had given up. For the times, in our day and age that I may feel despair, this First Reading is reassuring that even after giving up, God is there for me and it is up to me at any time to get up and get going and move forward. Opening up the lines of communication, even if it is by angry faith, are the first step on the journey out of self-pity. Elijah first gets food and rest and then moves on to Mount Horeb, which is the northern name for Mount Sinai, the place of sacred revelation to his ancestors, the mountain where God revealed himself to Moses and gave him de wisdom of the Torah (the Law) with witch to nourish Israel. So often we need the touch of another ‘angel’ in our wilderness moments, those times of grief, of real and perceived misunderstanding or those tragic days of disillusionment with ourselves and our world. The phone call, the visit, the e-mail, the invitation to a cup of coffee are simple ‘touches’ and can help us rise and continue in our life’s journey. This last realization invites me to reflect not only on the times when I am in the slump, but the times that I may play the role of such an ‘angel’ to someone else.
The Second Reading from the Letter the Ephesians reminds us that Christian life has ethical implications. Taken from the section of the letter
that deals with the Christian and non-Christian behaviors, Paul instructs his followers in Ephesus and all of us not to disappoint the Holy Spirit, with whom one was sealed at baptism, by refraining from acting on the list of vices (“bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling” “along with all malice”). The opposite conduct, living the virtues of kindness, compassion and forgiveness testifies to a life lived in the Spirit of Christ, called for in our Baptism. Ultimately, Christian ethical conduct cannot be separated from one’s relationship with God, as we are to “be imitators of God”.
The religious leaders in this week’s Gospel according to John are foolishly certain that they know all about Jesus because they know his parents. They have closed the ears of their hearts and are not ready for a surprising God who can be present in the prosaic and ordinary. It takes faith to see what is going on here, and faith comes only by the grace of God, as Jesus said, “… it is written by the prophets: They shall all be taught by God”. The price is pretty lofty, when we hear Jesus’ promise: “whoever believes has eternal life”
In closing a story I once read about a question asked at the last meeting before a person was received into the church: “What was the hardest thing to accept? Was it the Eucharist?” The answer was inspiring to me: “By no means, that was easy. If religion never asked to believe something beyond comprehension, I’d figure it was just something people made up. But this is the kind of challenge that I would expect from God”. Now, if you haven’t already, go and read the ten verses of John’s Gospel passage for this week. As always you can find the complete text of the readings at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/08/nineteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time.html
With God’s Love and Blessings,
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