Sunday, August 9, 2015

When God Squeezes Too Hard

“This is enough, O LORD! 1 Kings 19:4

Elijah had had enough.  He was a faithful prophet.  He had done all that the Lord had commanded him to do.  Yet, we find him in today’s first reading wishing for death.  How did he get to this point?  To answer this question we have to go to the previous chapter of the First Book of Kings: chapter 18.  There we see Elijah doing mighty deeds for the Lord.  There was a battle going on, so to speak, between Elijah and the prophets of the false gods.  All of Israel had been gathered at Mount Carmel where Elijah confronted Israel who had been unfaithful to God by worshiping these false gods. So on that mountain Elijah exhorted the people of Israel to choose whom to worship once and for all, and he challenged the 450 prophets of the false gods. They would both offer sacrifices of a young bull and both Elijah and the false prophets would call down fire to consume the sacrifice, “The Lord who answers with fire is God.”  The people consented.  Now Elijah knew how this would end, he knew that as soon as he called down fire from God, it would happen, just as sure as I know that as soon as I call the Holy Spirit down in a few minutes upon the bread and the wine that they will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  So Elijah, let the false prophets make their “prayers” first, in fact, Elijah taunted them “Call louder…perhaps your god is asleep.”  (Read 1 Kings 18; it’s all there.)  But of course, nothing happens, but as soon as Elijah calls down fire so that the people may know that the Lord is God, God answers his prayer and the people turn their backs on the false gods and believe again in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

So Elijah defeats the false prophets that had invaded his land, turns the people back to God, and puts and end to a long drought.  Yet Queen Jezebel who brought these false gods to Israel was determined to destroy Elijah which is where we pick up the first reading today.  Elijah had been heroic, done the Lord’s will, and he was still a wanted man fearing for his life.  He fled through the desert and after a day’s journey said “enough!”  All of us have been there.  All of us have been at a place in our lives where despite doing God’s work and living good lives, things still don’t turn out the way we want them.  We feel like the deck is stacked against us.  We may not wish for death like Elijah, but we look up to the heavens and ask God, “why?”  It’s a valid question.  Why, if we do so much good, do bad things still happen to us?  Elijah is considered the mightiest of the prophets of Israel.  In fact, he appeared with Moses during the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Yet Elijah was frustrated with God too.  He reached his wits end and wished for death.

So how did God answer his faithful prophet?  God sent an angel to feed Elijah.  He sent an angel to strengthen him.  Elijah would lie down again after eating, but the angel came back to make sure that he would be strengthened by this heavenly food, for Elijah’s journey was not complete.  This is what the Lord offers his faithful servants: sustenance, strength, food, and oh yea, the gentle nudge of an angel.  This leads us to today’s gospel where it’s not an angel but Jesus Christ himself that feeds us.  Tired? Overwhelmed? Anxious?  In over your head?  Come to the table of life.  Come and be fed the bread of life, the flesh of Christ for the life of the world.  There are so many things that overwhelm us consume us, bring us down, but this Eucharist reminds us that we never take on our problems alone.  Jesus Christ is always with us.  So yes, we may feel squeezed by God from time to time.  Elijah felt it. Even Jesus felt it in Gethsemane.  But He is always with us to feed us and strengthen us and in this Eucharist take it a step further by giving us nothing less than life eternal.