Speak Lord: compassion and care

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Elijah went into the wilderness, a day’s journey, and sitting under a furze bush wished he were dead. ‘O Lord,’ he said ‘I have had enough. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down and went to sleep. But an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked round, and there at his head was a scone baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. But the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

First reading for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah has done all things well and it has taken all he has to offer. His only mistake is to think he has to do it all himself, alone.

With what tenderness and the solicitude the angel of the Lord takes care of him.

  • Who cares for you?
  • What signs of God’s care have you recognised?

Elijah and the angel. Frederick Leighton. Walker Gallery, Liverpool. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Generosity and trust

Window, Dumbarton Mathodist Church, Washington, DCThe prophet Elijah – in the first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – seemed to have no hesitation in asking the widow for food, even when he knew how little she had. He asked inviting her to trust in God, and able to do this with authenticity and in communion with her, because he was himself doing the same thing. As she hungered and went without so had he, so did he, trusting in God’s faithfulness, in God’s providence.

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’

She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’

‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’

But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:10-16

The woman of Sidon receives the gift of faith and trust in God, even as she shares  her little with the prophet. Or rather, for her trust and her generosity are great, as she gives to the prophet her all – not only what she had to eat but all her son had to eat.

In the Gospel Jesus noted how most who give give from what they have left over. It is exceptional to give in a way that impoverishes.

The phrase ‘In God we trust’ has a certain civic and political currency in the West.

  • When do we trust in God?
  • How and why?

Window of Dumbarton Methodist Church, Washington, DC. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of our littleness make much

ElijahThe first reading at Mass today speaks of another woman ready to give of her little in an act of generosity and love for God. In the Gospel today, the widow offers her gift at the Temple; here she offers succour to God’s prophet:

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:10-16

The goodness of these women is recorded in Scripture for our guidance and encouragement. It is also helps us to know any selfishness in ourselves.

The modesty and self-giving of the women can help us better embrace the life of loving sacrifice that should characterise the Christian.

The author Joseph Donders wondered whether Jesus was still mindful of this widow when he made offering of all he was and had in the gift of himself at the Last Supper.

Will we remember here as we accept the charge to go and do the same…

Image of stained glass window depicting Elijah. St Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.