Elijah Heads for the Hills
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 12, 2018
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death, saying, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life!”
1 Kings 19:4
Have you ever felt like just “running away?” Elijah did! Elijah the prophet was one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament, a man who worked many miracles and manifested the power of God. Yet, in this Sunday’s first reading from 1 Kings 19, Elijah seems to have reached the end of his strength. He had just successfully defeated several hundred pagan priests who were misleading the people, but now Jezebel, the wife of the corrupt King Ahab, is chasing him to kill him.
Is it ever God’s will that we run away like this? Even Jesus ran away! Jesus not infrequently tried to escape the crowds by heading to the hills to pray. What are some of the reasons God might call us to “run away”?
If we are in trouble, we may find it necessary to “run away” to get help. God may require us to move from a troubling situation to a healthy one. We are always called to “run away” from sin, by going to confession or seeking a change of life. Like Jesus, we too have a regular need to “run away” to God in prayer, before we return to the battles and triumphs of everyday life.
St. Theresa of Lisieux writes in her diary that if she found herself in a situation in the convent where she was afraid of losing the battle of kindness with another nun, she was not above simply “running away” to another part of the convent to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing. The Holy Spirit can help us to pick our battles and to have the discernment to know when we need to get out of a certain situation to save us from sin or an unloving action. To avoid an occasion of sin is always a smart move!
When Elijah ultimately finds himself at the end of his rope, the Lord sends him an angel to give him food for the journey so that he can go on. For a Christian, Jesus himself is our Body and Blood. He feeds us with the Eucharist every time we attend Mass so that we will know that we are truly loved. After the angel encourages him, Elijah then stops running and begins moving toward a goal, to reach Mt. Sinai and speak with God. When we are discouraged, Christ reminds us that we are loved, and then renews our goal: heaven. To be truly loved; to have heaven as a goal; to have the Eucharist and the Scriptures as food for the journey; to have a community of faith to accompany us: these help us during the tough times in our lives too.