If there could be a word to describe how many people are feeling, at least anecdotally hearing from parishioners, students, friends and family – it would be weary. After months of fear, anger, worry (on repeat cycle) this sense of frustration, exhaustion – weariness has seemed to grip everyone. One friend describes how he’s worked non-stop on plans for an event for his students that every time he completes it, comes up with some new plan or alternative, our Governor here in NJ makes another order that conflicts with the previous one and makes all his work useless (and seemingly for no rational, logical reasoning). The first couple times that happened he was angry, really angry. The most recent time he was just numb – sounded defeated – weary. I think a lot of us can relate (I know I can)
Looking at today’s scriptures, we might feel like the woman we heard about in the first scripture from the Book of Kings. This widow and her son, living alone – already left vulnerable by the loss of her husband, his father – are now suffering this terrible drought which was the result of the people of Israel having been unfaithful, abandoning the covenant that they had made with God. With no rain, no crops, no food – there was no hope. You can hear that as she says: I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die. There’s a desperation and quiet acceptance of this terrible fate.
The prophet Elijah proposes a new commandment from the Lord. It’s the commandment spoken the most number of times in all scripture – Old Testament and New Testament… and probably the one we struggle with and fail at the most: “Do Not Be Afraid!” So often that becomes a struggle, that becomes something we fail at because we treat these words as motivational or inspirational words. Kind of like – “Just hang in there” meanwhile we feel we’re desperately grasping to a branch over some great abyss (sorry, ADD moment, I’m picturing a Road Runner and Coyote scene/image)
But if we see and hear them as a “command,” coming from God, we recognize His commandments are all commands meant for our happiness. That our hope comes from Him and that He wouldn’t simply offer a trite meaningless word in the midst of our trial. Which is what the widow comes to learn. In the midst of her weariness, she listens to the prophet. She obeys the word of God and does what seems to be reckless in the face of all that she’s facing: sharing, offering what little she has left which was barely enough for her and her son to now this “stranger” in their midst, the prophet Elijah. The miraculous occurs. “She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah. Despite the drought that afflicts the nation – this one woman’s faith, her trust, her obedience to the Lord results in the miraculous occurring.
Jesus in today’s Gospel calls us to be “salt” of the earth “light” of the world… That too can sound inspirational, motivational – and something we fail at because we put the emphasis on ourselves… Imagining these things are possible through our own strength, ability, talents. God invites us, in the midst of our own weariness, to listen to Him, to have Faith and trust in Him – even with as little as it might seem that we have… Recognizing what remains and seeing the miracles He can work with us and through us.