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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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Angela Merici: Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. 
<p>As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood. </p><p>She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. </p><p>She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost. </p><p>At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.</p> American Catholic Blog I hear far more people discuss the presence of evil in their lives than they do the supreme power of grace. God is bigger than evil!

 
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