SUMMER APPEAL-----WE CAN USE YOUR HELP
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I usually pack a meal as I leave for the airport. Flying across
country requires food – breakfast, lunch, or even dinner for the
plane. If I should forget, I can pick up something at the airport.
Have you ever tried counting restaurants, fast food, ice cream,
dessert and coffee places in the terminal as you head for your gate?
So much food and such variety! They even sell food on the plane, no
longer free, but if you’re hungry, it’s there for the purchase.
Did Elijah just forget to pack some food and water for his desert
trip? Not very wise of him, considering the ardors of desert travel.
Is it just physical hunger that has him praying for death? How bad
are things for him? Pretty bad – and it is not just food for his
body that has him so distressed. In fact, his physical needs take
second place to his depleted spirit.
How did Elijah get himself in such a predicament anyway – hungry,
thirsty and downhearted in the desert? Enter the infamous Jezebel.
She was from Tyre and Sidon, the pagan wife of Ahab, Israel’s king.
He allowed her to continue worshiping her pagan gods. She even
incited her husband to abandon the worship of Yahweh and adopt the
rituals of the deities Baal and Asherah. On Mount Carmel Elijah
confronted the pagan prophets Jezebel brought with her, won a
contest against them and had them slaughtered. (The account is quite
spectacular, with even some hints of humor.1 Kings 18:17-40) As a
result, Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he fled to the desert.
That’s where we find him today, praying for death. He could go no
further on his own.
But God had plans for the discouraged prophet and would support
and guide him on. An angel gave Elijah food and encouragement. "Get
up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" Angel is
derived from the Greek "angelos," which means "messenger." Sometimes
an angel seems to be a distinct being; other times it may represent
God’s presence – the biblical writers’ way of respecting the divine
We know that the first readings are chosen because they show
similarities and links to the gospel selected for the day. So, we
note that Elijah, hungry in the desert, anticipates Jesus’ time in
the desert. (We Christians also identify with the church’s time in
the desert of Lent.) We know our personal desert times when we have
experienced our limitations and dead ends. God provides food for
Elijah and Jesus responds to the temptation to turn stones into
bread by reminding humans we don’t just need bread for life, but
"every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
The Elijah narrative encourages us to trust in the gracious love
of God. It’s not a story about someone who has merited and
"deserves" help from God. It is a tale of a human who can’t help
himself. Which leaves plenty of room for God to move in with bread
and water, nourishment to continue the journey.
Which is what God is providing for us today at this Eucharist for
whatever desert we find ourselves. Keep in mind God’s nourishment
isn’t just for us as individuals, but for a community that finds
itself in the desert. As I write this, the New York Times features a
front page story of sexual abuse charges against a very high ranking
American cardinal. Will it never end! How much more will the church
have to suffer hunger in this desert of scandal?
We may not find ourselves hungry and thirsty in the same desert
Elijah was in. But life has given most of us a taste – maybe a big
one – of our own hunger, fatigue and discouragement. We are all on a
journey and we need a food that, not only satisfies us temporarily,
but will sustain us to the end with wisdom to guide us on the right
path. Life will present us with joys and satisfaction, as well as
moments of struggle, loss and pain. We will have love and
achievement, but also broken relationships and disappointment. Some
of our best made plans and goals falter and even fail. Those we love
will support us; but some will let us down when we need them the
most. Our travels vary, but as the scriptures remind us today, God
will be our constant and supporting presence, guiding and sustaining
us in the unique ways we are each called to serve God.
That’s what Elijah discovered at the lowest point of his life,
when he was so disillusioned and discouraged he wanted to die. Like
us, the program Elijah had to learn was total reliance on God. He
was at his life’s limits with no visible means of support. He felt
let down by God and unable to provide for himself. Where was the God
who first called him into service? By what means could he survive?
Certainly not by his own.
What does Elijah learn and what does his experience teach us? He
was at the end of his rope and saw no way out. Yet, he gave himself
into God’s hands and God fed him with the bread and drink he needed
to continue his journey on the mission God had given him.
We learn from Elijah and Jesus today of God’s love for us. We are
invited to put our faith into practice. Faith is not an escape from
the sometimes harsh realities of life. Elijah must return to face
his enemies. Jesus will not escape the pain and death that lies
ahead for him. Nor can we just shrug our shoulders and leave
everything for God to take care of. Our faith enables us to
experience God’s presence with us both as comfort and encouragement,
so that we can do what we have to do.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
|It is not
healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with
others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity,
to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can
be accepted and integrated into our life in this world,
and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called
to be contemplatives even in the midst of action and to
grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying
out our proper mission.
---Pope Francis, "Rejoice and Be Glad: Gaudete et
bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from
you, along with all malice.
Ephesians is the great Pauline letter about the worldwide church
and emphasizes the unity that is needed within God’s household that
is the church of Christ. Ethical admonition is not lacking as we see
in the above reading. To read what the church teaches today on this
subject, we have only to look at the USCCB document on faithful
In "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the Catholic
bishops of the United States urge all people to practice civility,
charity and justice in public life (no. 60). In his essay, "Civil
Discourse: Speaking Truth in Love," Cardinal Donald Wuerl,
Archbishop of Washington, reflects on how Catholics can carry out
this call to civil dialogue.
He states that "Increasingly, there is a tendency to disparage
the name and reputation, the character and life, of a person because
he or she holds a different position. The identifying of some people
as "bigots" and "hate mongers" simply because they hold a position
contrary to another’s has unfortunately become all too commonplace
today. Locally, we have witnessed rhetorical hyperbole that, I
believe, long since crossed the line between reasoned discourse and
irresponsible demagoguery. . . Why is it so important that we
respect both our constitutional right to free speech and our moral
obligation that we not bear false witness against another? A
profoundly basic reason is that we do not live alone. While each of
us can claim a unique identity, we are, nonetheless, called to live
out our lives in relationship with others -- in some form of
community." In Ephesians, the community is the church.
Cardinal Wuerl lays out seven ground rules for civil dialogue:
1. Make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
2. Share your personal experience, not someone else’s.
3. Listen carefully and respectfully. Speak carefully and
respectfully. Do not play the role of know-it-all, convincer or
corrector. Remember that a dialogue is not a debate.
4. Don’t interrupt unless for clarification or time keeping.
5. Accept that no group or viewpoint has a complete monopoly
on the truth.
6. "Be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s
statement than condemn it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2478,
quoting St. Ignatius of Loyola).
7. Be cautious about assigning motives to another person.
To read both documents, go to:
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
can come to me unless the Father
me draws them."
People cannot achieve God on their own, they must be drawn by
God, the One who gives faith. The invitation is always before us.
Shall we accept again, what the religious authorities rejected, the
bread that has come down from heaven?
So we ask ourselves:
- How do I experience God "drawing" me these days?
- How am I responding to that invitation?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Ted Prevatte #0330166 (On death row since 2/22/99)
- Raymond Thibodeaux #0515143 (3/2/99)
- Lyle May #0580028 (3/18/99)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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