1940s London; 1960s London, 2020s Cologne, Germany…
After [Elijah] ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. 1 Kings 19:5-8.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
Strange choice of images today, I know, but wait. It struck me that all three readings today talk, in one way or another, of a journey. Elijah had to be strengthened for a long walk to Mount Horeb. The second reading states we are “sealed for the day of redemption”, the journey to which, the reading says, must have no hint of bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling. And the gospel states Jesus as saying, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. Another journey, it seems. So all of us, of all ages, experiences, skills and willpower, are called to journey forth. The images are designed to cover all of us. I can remember steam train journeys when young, just like the picture above, the excitement, the clouds of steam, the smuts in your eye, hanging out the open windows, all of it. Then, when all the steam trains had been banished to legacy lines, the smooth, swift electric and diesel trains which took over with more comfortable seats and reliability, followed by today’s high speed trains, especially in Europe and Asia. The train above is an ICE German train (Inter-City Express), capable of speeds up to 180 miles per hour… in luxury… And now, take a look at the rails upon which they all travel… Choices, decisions, directions. That’s what today’s readings are all about… Only here, we are in the driver’s seat, no matter the age and condition the engine is in, or, indeed, we are in, and furthermore, we have the power to change the rail points we are approaching, unlike the drivers up there. Our journeys began long ago, but we continue to this day, the decisions, the directions and the destinations we choose. Today’s readings, then, offer a possible course correction, perhaps minor, perhaps not.
The second reading seems to be, as it were, the most practical, with specific do’s and don’ts. It seems to contain a ground plan for everyday living, treating each other courteously, without rancor or anger or swearing. Forgiveness and compassion are the Christian pattern of behavior, not the opposite. Then, in the extract from 2nd Kings, God confirms Elijah’s worth in God’s eyes, no matter what Elijah might think. The poor man seems to think he is basically worthless and the world would be better off without him. God rejects that instantly, “Get up and eat” being the divine response! God’s plan for Elijah has hardly begun! And that, too, would apply to each of us. We have to figure what the plan is, based on our gifts and skills, but that’s where the floorplan will be, and it is up to us to go figure. Then of course, there is today’s gospel, reaching out way beyond the other readings. Here is God’s plan for us – to be called by God, to be fed by God with food for eternal life, guided by One whom God the almighty sent to us for exactly that purpose. With such a guide, we can select the track we wish to follow, have help with the fuel and the direction at all times, for this “fuel”, as Jesus tells us, is the bread that I will give [which] is my flesh for the life of the world.
And of course it matters not what engine of choice we direct to get from here, today, to there, tomorrow. What we do need is a plan, as it is up to use to choose the way we travel. That is a heavy responsibility, a necessary one. But Elijah was not alone, and neither are we. Yes we choose the way, but we do that in the full knowledge of which way is right, and which wrong, We know what should be done, we have the fuel to do it, and the track is clearly laid out before us. So all we need is the same conviction, trust and confidence that the drivers of each of those engines above had in their signal personnel who would direct them to their goal. That’s the trust we are called to this day and every day.
Terminus ad Quem, from Reformation to World Renunciation, Bosch 1560, Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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