Image: Hunting for the family near Tuktoyaktuk
In yesterday’s reflection I spoke about the beatitudes and how Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is close to those who find themselves in great need. The other side of that teaching is that the self-reliant, those with great wealth and ability do not have the same motivation to seek God or even to look to others for help and so often miss out on opportunities to experience God at work in their lives. Today’s first reading gives an excellent example of this in the story of the prophet Elijah trying to survive the drought that has come over the land.
As the drought begins, Elijah is destitute and without water or food. Placing his trust in God, he is led far out into the wilderness where he finds a small creek with a little running water to parch his thirst and food is brought to him daily by none other then wild ravens. It is a pretty spartan existence but because of his faith, Elijah’s life has been spared for the moment.
As the drought worsens the little creek that has been sustaining Elijah finally dries up. With no water the birds also fail to return, and Elijah’s life is once more in peril and his faith is once again tested. This time God tells him go back to the city and find a particular widow who will provided for him. Elijah of course was delighted to hear this news. The comforts of civilization and a home cooked meal would have been a fine change from what he was enduring.
His joyful heart falls however when Elijah meets the widow of Zarephath. She is in a state worse than his and also caring for a son. Imagine trying to ask a meal from someone who is skin and bones and next to death from starvation. Yet the two of them have no choice but to do as they have been asked, what God has asked of Elijah and what the widow has been asked by the prophet. In doing so they open the way for God to provide for them both and the widow’s son as well. Bountiful food for as long as it is needed. It is a beautiful story of trust and it would not have happened if either of them had sought to solve their own dilemma without God’s help.
The message of the beatitudes is one which the world needs to hear more of because we have become a society of very self-reliant people and our relationship with God has suffered because of it. We laud those who create and build and buy and look with disdain upon those who need the help of others or we are ashamed to reach out if we find ourselves in need. In doing so we do not give a chance for God to intervene.
We fail realize that without God, our accomplishments are without meaning. They become like a bland meal without the flavor of salt which Jesus speaks about in the Gospel today. Without God our need is just suffering. But when God is involved, when we call upon God then our successes become like lanterns on a hilltop for all people to see and be inspired by and our needs become an opportunity to build relationships with our neighbors and to grow in our faith in God and to know that God provides for us and answers our prayers.