I meant to post this on Sunday and…well, I didn’t get around to it. So, before I share my reflection on the homily that was offered by one of our deacons this weekend, I should probably refresh your memory. Here are the readings that I’ll be referencing (first reading and Gospel reading):
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven?'”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
With those two readings in mind, here’s what Dc. Mike had to say. We often think of the God of the Old Testament as this evil, vengeful Being who punishes even the slightest offense. And yet, in the first reading, we see that this isn’t true because we see God’s love and mercy. God had always been with Elijah and had protected him through every trial and danger, but even so Elijah was afraid when Jezebel threatened his life, and so he fled the city.
Now, after everything God did for Elijah, we might understand if He was a little frustrated with the prophet, right? But if you’ll notice from the reading, God doesn’t chastise Elijah. Instead, He sends an angel to offer him food and drink for the long journey ahead of him. This reading alone offers so much material for reflection. As Dc. Mike said to us on Sunday, we’ve all been one or more of the parts of the story. Sometimes, we’re Elijah, afraid and not sure what to do in spite of all God has done for us in the past. Sometimes, we’re the angel offering help to others for the journeys ahead of them. And sometimes, we’re the food that others need to be able to go on.
Moving into the Gospel reading, we see the same thing. Rather than becoming frustrated with the people in the crowd who refuse to accept His teaching, Jesus persists in teaching them. He doesn’t become angry with the people for questioning Him, but He uses that as an opportunity to develop and explain His teaching. From these two readings, then, we learn of God’s love for us and His unending patience with us.
Caution! You are now entering an opinion zone!
We’re always told never to doubt God’s love for us because His love is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what we do, He will always love us and forgive us.
Needless to say, that’s sometimes easier said than done. There are times when we doubt God’s love because we can’t forgive or love ourselves because of something we’ve done. How soon and how easily we forget that we have proof of God’s love for us.
If we ever doubt our worth, if we ever doubt God’s love for us, we can always look at a crucifix. The Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. The Son loves us so much that He bore the torture and humiliation of the Cross for us. We are not worthless because we have each been ransomed with the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. If we know this and hold this to be true, how can we ever doubt how much God loves us? And, more importantly…how can we not love Him in return?
Fr. Andy’s homily was especially interesting today because he really opened our eyes to what’s going on around us. We’ve all heard about the HHS mandate that will force Catholic institutions to provide health care insurance to employees that would include coverage for birth control, which is against Catholic social teaching. Since that bombshell broke a while back, Father said, there’s been a lot of finger pointing going on around here. We’ve blamed Obama, HHS, the government as a whole…everyone. Except ourselves.
I thought Fr. Andy showed some wisdom in pointing that out to us. After all, would the government have dared to try such a measure if we Catholics here in the United States stood united and faithful to our religion? No. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
As it is now, though, the Church in the United States faces a huge problem from outside, of course, with this mandate. But we face an even bigger problem from within. A great majority of Catholics in the United States do not even really believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist! Our faith is so often on the back burner, barely simmering, while we separate out the rest of our lives and keep them boiling at full speed. That’s not going to work.
We’re in big trouble when Catholics come to Mass and receive the Eucharist without believing that they are receiving Jesus Christ Himself. We’re in big trouble when teenagers would rather stay over at a friend’s house or sit at home than attend Mass on Sunday. We’re in big trouble when parents allow their children to skip out on Mass because they don’t want to fight about it. We’re in big trouble when Catholic politicians will not stand up for the faith they profess to believe and vote accordingly. We’re in big trouble when we’re Catholic for an hour on Sunday and whatever feels right during the rest of the week.
You know, I’ve often wondered to myself: Where is the zeal? Where is the passion and the love and the fellowship that the Church used to have? I see none of it anymore! The early Christians were bold about their faith in Christ. They proclaimed Him in the streets! And I’ve got news for you, folks: They faced the Colosseum. We face social rejection. So what in the world has us all so scared?! If we say we are Catholics, if we stand up at Mass on Sunday and recite the Creed with our brothers and sisters, why don’t we live it? Why don’t we lift up people when they’re down, deny ourselves in favor of helping another, make sacrifices during the day, or defend someone when we see something unjust? WHY?
I know I sound like I’m on my soap box, but this just gets my blood to boiling. I can’t even begin to explain how much it frustrates me to see Catholics not living the faith and how much I frustrate myself by giving in to social pressure. Do we not see how far we’ve strayed? We have to stand up now, not later!
Christ commanded us to take up our crosses daily and follow Him if we are to be His disciples. So we have a choice: we can throw off the cross and despise it as an unnecessary burden, or we can embrace the cross and trust in our Savior’s help when we fall under the weight of sin and human weakness. Which will you choose?