Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on August 9, 2015 at the 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
A magician worked for a cruise line and because each trip the ship made had a completely new audience, the magician did the same tricks over and over. Now the captain had a parrot that watched every magic show and quickly figured out how each trick was done. So during each performance the parrot would shout out how each trick was done. “The rabbit is in a different hat under the table.” “He was hiding the ace of spades up his sleeve.” Needless to say the magician was furious because every show was ruined. But it was the captain’s parrot and so he could do nothing.
One day the ship sank and the magician and the parrot found themselves floating on the same piece of wood in the middle of the ocean. They glared at each other, but said nothing. This went on for a week until finally the parrot said, “I give up.” The magician said, “What do you mean, you give up?” The parrot replied, “I give up. What did you do with the boat?”
We have all felt like that parrot at various times in our lives, those times when we just throw up our hands and say, “I give up! I can’t go on! I can’t do this anymore!” In today’s first reading we heard Elijah say something similar, but in an even stronger way, when he says, “It is enough, O Lord! Take my life.” The greatest prophet of the Old Testament, a man with whom the Lord spoke to directly as a very close friend, was having such a bad day that he wanted to end his own life.
We aren’t told why Elijah was so down. Maybe he was having a bad day at work. Maybe he was having money problems. Maybe he was feeling lonely. Being a prophet was difficult work and it often got you into trouble. The pay was terrible and reminding people about what was going wrong in the world and in their lives did not help you make friends. But whatever problem Elijah was facing isn’t important, what is important is that we all have felt like giving up and Elijah’s story can show us how to get through these tough times and help us in our journey of faith.
First, while it was Elijah’s will to die, he did not take matters into his own hands and kill himself. Instead he went into the desert and sat under a broom tree so that he could speak with God about it. Now a broom tree has very few leaves and what leaves it has are very small. It looks like a large tumbleweed and provides little shade or cover. So Elijah was not hiding himself or his problems from God. He was openly taking his troubles to God for his solution to his troubles. Whenever we feel like giving up we must go under our own broom tree to talk openly with God because the ultimate solution begins with God.
Second, you will notice that God did not respond to Elijah’s request right away, in fact Elijah fell asleep in a hot desert waiting for an answer. It is hard for us to wait for anything today. We live in an on-demand world of instant everything. I heat my bagel each morning in the microwave for 22 seconds and it feels like 22 minutes. I want it faster. We must be patient with God. His plan for us unfolds in the time that it should, no faster. But his plan for us is worth waiting for.
Next, God did not grant Elijah’s request to end his life. God always answers our prayers, but often not in the way that we hope, no matter how hard or how often we pray. How different my life would be today if it were how I had prayed it would be way back in the day. But I now know without a doubt that it would certainly not be as blessed as it is today. Looking back I would say that some of the best gifts that God has given me are the prayers that he did not answer in the way I originally hoped. God’s plan is better than our plan. His will for our life is where we find true happiness and joy.
Finally, the message that is delivered to Elijah by the angel of God is for Elijah to go to the Mountain of God. What God is asking Elijah to do is to draw closer to him. Whenever something happens in our life that makes us say “I give up” or makes us feel that we can’t go on, God wants us to get out from under our broom trees and draw close to him and have faith in him.
You know maybe Elijah was simply angry because he was hungry, or “hangry” as it is known today. Maybe he just needed a Snickers bar because after eating the bread cakes the Lord provides him, Elijah is able to continue on his journey. The Heavenly Father has provided each one of us with the “bread come down from heaven” (as Jesus calls himself in today’s Gospel) to nourish us for our life journey and strengthen us to carry out the plan that God has laid out for us.
Elijah asked God to take his life under the broom tree, and eventually God answered that prayer by taking him from this life, but without Elijah ever having to die, sending a flaming chariot to carry him to heaven so that Elijah could live with him forever. Jesus Christ, the “bread come down from heaven,” is part of God’s plan that includes each one of us, the opportunity to live with the Lord in heaven for all eternity. When we feel like giving up, we need to remember that God has a plan for us, he is always working on it, and without a doubt it is certainly worth waiting for.
Rejoice and be glad!