Sunday, August 12, 2018

Extrapolating on Elijah

He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life,
for I am no better than my ancestors.”
                                                                               1 Kings 19:4

In preparation for this article I read from a book worthy of its own Amazon mini-series. The book, 1 Kings, is where we find Elijah, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament in today’s first reading.  It is helpful to know a little about the story’s other two main characters: Ahab (a king of Israel) and Jezebel. 1 Kings 16:30-31 tells us all we need know.

Ahab, son of Omri, did what was evil in the LORD’s sight more than any of his predecessors. It was not enough for him to follow the sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat. He even married Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal, and worship him.

Jezebel brought 1,000 prophets of Baal with her and slaughtered all but one hundred of the prophets of Israel.  Elijah alone openly stood against Jezebel. He called for and won a throw-down with the prophets of Baal. The people rose up and slaughtered the false-prophets.   Jezebel’s swears to avenge these deaths and pursues Elijah. Today’s reading begins with Elijah sitting in despair under a broom tree begging God to take his life.

The rawness of Elijah’s words do not sit well with me. Like most people, I can be slowed down by a head-wind or uphill climb. But this swing from elation to despair is troubling. It strikes a chord in me as a parent and someone who works with young people.

The U.S Center for Disease Control reports the following:
  • In 2011 suicide became the 2nd leading cause of death in Americans between the ages of 15-34.
  • In 2014 Suicide became the 2nd leading cause of death in Americans between the ages of 10-14
  • Suicide has taken the life of more Americans than homicide in Americans between the ages of 10-35 since 2012
God’s word offers hope.

Elijah is wakened by an angel who brings a hearth cake and a jug of water commanding him to eat.

The psalmist writes “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he saves them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.”  Psalm 34:7-8

Today’s music reflects the hope found in today’s scripture readings.  The verses of “Strength for the Journey” affirm we have a road to travel, and a cross to carry.  In the third verse the song asks “How many times have you doubted my word?”  The answer to each of these questions is God reminding us “I will be strength for the journey.”

Our offertory song is the African-American spiritual; “There is a Balm in Gilead” (#456). While the initial reaction of some will be to find it depressing, I am moved by its somber nature and its history of comfort. I’ve placed it at offertory to remind us that sacrifice of Jesus is balm for the sadness and trails of our lives.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Ironically, the following article came across my Facebook feed. It recalls an op-ed piece from 30 years ago where  The NY Times where Willian Styron (the author of Sophie’s Choice) broke a taboo by writing an op-ed about his own depression.

Later the same day an old friend tells me that his son missed 50 days of seventh grade due to depression. I have scheduled a repeating reminder on my calendar to reach out to this young man who has called me “Uncle Bruce” since he was able to talk.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Would that we had died at the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!"    Ex. 16:3

On the 18th Sunday of ordinary time we divert from Mark’s gospel and begin the “Bread of Life Discourses” from the gospel of John. The people are hungry and look for Jesus because he had recently fed 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. 

Jesus seizes the opportunity to introduce the concept of eternal food.  In his lesson, Jesus refers to today’s first reading from the book of Exodus. The Israelites are hungry and thirsty as they wander through the desert. Losing hope, they grumble against Moses and Aaron: "Would that we had died at the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!

This story would be familiar to those to whom Jesus speaks, as they are the descendants of the people in the story. They would also know two important lessons/rules contained in the subsequent part of the story

1. Anything kept overnight would be worm-infested by morning.

2. The exception to rule #1 would be the day before the Sabbath where God would provide and the people would collect double portions. In this way, the Sabbath would remain a day of rest.

Readings such as these never fail to make me examine my own life. Do I trust in God’s providence? Am I generous with my time, talent and treasure? Do I take (or make) what I need? Or do I break rule 1 and try to hold on to as much as I can, forgetting that the excess never seems to maintain its value?

Thankfully, Jesus’ words are not words of condemnation. Perhaps the struggles you and I feel are inspired by the Holy Spirit? This reminds me  of something I learned a long time ago:  the Spirit convicts, corrects and converts.
Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


We say so long for a while to today’s cantor Gabrianna Boomer. Gabrianna will be working for the Walt Disney Company at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida as a Children's Activities Cast Member.
She, like our other cantors have been hand selected from the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at Montclair State University. These talented, faith-filled young people have played a major role in helping me develop the music ministry that you, the parishioners of St. Mary’s deserve.
Good luck, Gabrianna!  Say “Hi!” to Mickey. See you real soon. 

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