August 12, 2018 — Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34:2-9; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6: 41-51
Elijah spent a long, hot day traipsing through the desert until he finally came to a sad little broom tree. Sliding dejectedly beneath it, he prayed for death, crying out. “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life.” Talk about a bad day! Haven’t we all been through this at some point in our stewardship journey — whether in the parish ministry work we are trying to do, at home with our family or in our profession? Maybe you’re there right now. You’ve have been dragging yourself through the “desert” all day and have nothing to show for it but frustration and misunderstanding; you have nothing left to give and you are just done — enough already, Lord!
It’s a cry we all make at one point or another, whether out loud or silently. Elijah certainly doesn’t hold back in his complaint to God — he asks the Lord to end his life entirely! He’s being a just a wee bit dramatic, wouldn’t you agree? Yet this plea — melodramatic to be sure — is a form of the stewardship pillar of prayer, for prayer at its core is simply a lifting of the mind and heart to God.
And how does the Lord respond to Elijah? With a stern lecture? With a guilt trip to just pull himself up by the sandal straps and keep going?
No, he responds with help and comfort that is both tender and practical — He sends an angel to give Elijah food and drink and lets him extend his nap a little longer. When Elijah’s strength is fully restored, God sets him right back on his journey. Rejuvenated, Elijah is able to walk for 40 days until he arrives at the destination God had in mind for him all along!
We see just the opposite happening in the Gospel reading. The people, hearing Jesus’ message, do not understand. But rather than take their complaint to Him, they begin to complain amongst themselves about Him — that’s murmuring.
What can we learn from these reactions as modern-day disciples and Christian stewards? Several things. First, feeling worn out and worn down from time to time is actually part of the stewardship journey. It means we are giving our all to the life God is calling us to live. But it is also a sign to us that we need to find some rest and restoration, so that we can gain new and needed strength to keep going.
Second, we learn that “murmuring” is counterproductive. It only leads to more discouragement, weariness and discontent. Rather than complain about God, (or our ministry, our relationships, our work) we should take our complaints to God in prayer. We should ask Him for the rest and strength we need to keep going on the journey of faith. He delights in our reliance on Him. He will send an “angel” in some form or other to give you what you need physically for your own unique stewardship journey.
Even more, as we see in today’s Gospel, He will send you His own Son, the Bread from Heaven, to strengthen you spiritually with His very Body and Blood and the living Word of the Scriptures. A stewardship way of life takes all the strength we have to give. The beauty of this way of life is that we have a God who delights in giving us every bit of strength we need to live it!
Copyright © 2018 — Catholic Stewardship Consultants, Inc.