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Bible Reflections View Comments

Refreshed by God's Grace
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 12, 2012
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Sometimes we just get tired. It might be the sheer physical exhaustion of hard manual labor or the sleeplessness that inevitably accompanies a new baby in the house. It might be a sense of being overwhelmed by the stress of responsibility for others or of unresolved conflicts in a relationship. It might be a bit of depression that we don’t have the time or energy to trace to its source, but we feel it sap our strength a little bit every day. It might be the flood of negative attitudes that pervades both our public discourse and our private conversations. Few people escape a passing (or lingering) feeling that we want to run away from everything in our lives. We fight this feeling because we know that we have responsibilities to our families, our work, our faith and our society. But some days the struggle threatens to overtake us.

Today’s first reading from the Book of Kings is one of my favorites. At those times when I struggle to pick up the day’s responsibilities once more, I take comfort in the thought of the great prophet Elijah despairing of his task and saying, “Enough! I am no better than my ancestors.” In fact, he’s recently vanquished the 500 prophets of Baal and is now on the run from Queen Jezebel. He’s done quite a bit more than his ancestors, but even he needs a timeout. And so Elijah sleeps under the broom tree and accepts without question the food and water left there by the angel. And after a bit, the angel reminds him that he needs to keep going.   
 
Jesus’s own ministry was one of intense involvement with the crowds and much-needed time away in prayer and solitude. Finding balance in our lives is, for most of us, a lifelong struggle. Sometimes we do need to retreat for a bit. We need to regather our strength and our energy for the work God has called us to do. At other times, we just need to lighten the expectations that others have of us— or that we put on ourselves.   

We forget sometimes the great grace given to us in the sacraments of the Church. And we forget the power of prayer. Even when we’ve taken a number of steps to find rest and refreshment for our bodies, to overcome depression and to keep ourselves moving forward, we still need divine grace.

We’re never so strong that we don’t need God’s presence and action in our lives. St. Paul never forgot this. In today’s second reading, he tells the Ephesians to remember the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to them in baptism. “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” Think about how much more restful your life would be if you took him at his word!   

At some point, we, like Elijah, need to begin the journey again. That journey always carries us forward to new life, and God always provides the nourishment we need to undertake and survive the journey. But no amount of divine provisions and no amount of angelic kicks in the behind will do any good if we’re not willing to get up and get going again.   
 
 There is no greater gift than that of the Eucharist, the living bread come down from heaven, the food and drink that make any bodily nourishment and rest pale in comparison. For the little effort involved in receiving this gift, we are rewarded with life beyond anything we can imagine.  


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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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