Ordinary 19by Lanie LeBlanc OP
The readings this Sunday highlight some very human emotions and also suggest ways in which we might deal with such deep feelings today. Probably everyone who reads or hears the selection from the first book of Kings can identify with the extreme frustration Elijah felt when he exclaimed "This is enough, O LORD!" Trudging through everyday circumstances that are relentlessly difficult or trying to manage to survive a particular crisis with one's faith intact are all too familiar to us all. We must admit that such frustration is not the very best part of being human.
Today's culture of immediacy does not advocate patient endurance, waiting for a solution, or even trying to work out a solution. We want to return to a "better place" in our lives right now. As Elijah found out, a quick fix is not usually God's default way of working in our lives. God reminds us that He is near, ever caring for us, but usually by unusual signs of His presence.
God is always faithful, however. He gives us food for the journey, often in little by little portions, but it is for the long journey, not only for the day! The food can be an event, a person, a connection, a breakthrough thought, or, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel passage, daily "flesh for the life of the world" in the Eucharist.
The Jews in the Gospel passage from John were not focused on this Gift, the Bread of Life, however, even as it was being offered by Jesus. They were too busy "murmuring" against Jesus. Murmuring is not our best human ability although it can be listed among the most frequently used in a controversy!
There is a big difference in questioning what is put before you in an attempt to gain truth and this type of questioning which was purely to spread discord.
One of the greatest gifts we have as humans is our intellect. We are called to use it wisely.
Gossiping and close-mindedness are some ways to mis-use this great gift. Unfortunately, it seems that many people today employ these postures as their way of holding fast to living the Christian life.
A reporter recently quoted someone who was describing a church official (who shall remain
nameless) in these words: "He reflects a trend in the church hierarchy that the answers are already there and if you need it, we'll talk about it until you come to my position." How completely opposite to the way Jesus wants us to be! A "know-it-all" mentality belongs to God alone and God never boasts or is smug about that.
The reading from Ephesians gives us some better clues about the attitude we need in approaching finding the truth. We are told that the negative inclinations we have must be abandoned and replaced by kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. When we approach one another with this softer and more open mentality, we might just be able to listen with different ears and learn what truth is present in an opposing view. It does not mean that we have to be "converted" or convert others, just that we listen. It means we have to really listen and not just hear words, words to twist, ignore, or "murmur" about.
How different might the lives of those Jews in the Gospel account have been if they tried to understand what Jesus meant right from the beginning? How different might our disagreements end if we approached them with open dialogue right from the beginning? How more like Jesus might some of our church officials appear (and be) if they acted as if only God was omniscient? How different might each of us be if we worked earnestly along with God on the difficult part of our forty day and forty night journey through frustration and approached obstacles with openness and faith? How might it be?
(Comments to Lanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.)