Reading 1: 1 Kings: 19:4-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading 2: Ephesians: 4:30-5:2
Gospel: John: 6:41-51
In the first reading, Elijah had given up and went into solitude to pray for death. He was done. Finished. He was exhausted and frustrated. The prophet had ended his mission, or so he thought. Twice over an angel woke him and offered him bread and water as sustenance to continue his long journey of life and service. Following this collapse and reawakening, Elijah made his camino walking to Mount Horeb where he would encounter God and another stage of his mission.
In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we hear a call to heed nothing less than the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit issues forth kindness and compassion based on the forgiveness that God has offered us in Christ. So often as Christians we forget that the dynamic of forgiveness requires both our recognition that we have been forgiven by God and also that we forgive one another. In the Our Father, we pray, “forgive us our trespasses (O God,) as we forgive others that trespass against us.” We do not ask for something from God that we cannot and do not offer to others and to ourselves.
This basic Christian dynamic and spiritual practice exists as the compassion of God with us and working through us. This discipline serves as our nourishment and bread from heaven as given to us in the life of Christ.
As I write this reflection, I am cooking dinner tonight for thirty family members gathered for our annual week-long family vacation on a lake in Minnesota. The long camino of our family as of many others has included beautiful joyous experiences as well as tremendous loss. This week is no different as we enjoy new life and parenthood and pray with a family member who is seriously ill. The stark preciousness of each hour and minute inspires us to savor every meal, every hug, every smile. We nourish each other physically and spiritually.
The commitment to compassion and forgiveness in our daily lives may be a simple practice, but it is not an easy one. The call for each Christian is to remain convinced of the generous love received from God and to extend that generosity to others in daily life encounters. This compassionate way of being forms us for the long loves of life that do not end with death.
Sometimes these long loves of life leave us drained of life and we desire to escape like Elijah. Perhaps a friend will arrive to offer us spiritual and physical nourishment. But often, no such support arrives. It’s at these times when we most need to offer God’s compassion to ourselves. Psychologist Kristen Neff defines the three elements of self-compassion as mindfulness, self-kindness, and recognition of our common humanity. By activating the Holy Spirit within us we can find rest when we need it; we can be gentle with ourselves as we would be with a beloved friend, and we can note that our struggles are basic human struggles. Hopefully then, after a time of physical and spiritual rest and nurturance, we too can awaken to the next phase of God’s call for our lives.
May we always remember the deepest hope of Christian salvation, that the bread of life in Christ is the bread of love and compassion issued forth into the world for our own fullness of life that does not end at death.
Marian Diaz, DMin