Some thoughts on today’s Mass readings (1 Kings 18), here at Acton University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
ActonU homily June 14, 2012
(fr. Ovidiu Petru DAMIAN)
We have been listening, yesterday and today in the first reading at Mass, about Elijah, the prophet. The Bible tells us about the great miracles he performed, but also about the great persecutions he underwent.
One would expect, after the miracle of the fire descending from heaven and burning the offerings on the altar built on Mt. Carmel, that a period of success in his ministry would follow. But it was not so. Because of the great miracle he performed and the defeat of the false prophets (of Baal and Ashe’rah) he was even more hated by Ahab’s wife, queen Jezebel and because of this he had to run in the desert and hide himself again, as he did for three years after announcing the great dryness coming over Israel. King Ahab was deaf also to the announced miracle of the rain coming back again. This miracle, too, will not be sufficient for a successful mission of the prophet. In 1 Kings 19 we see him running again, hiding, being persecuted and so discouraged to the point of asking the Lord to take away his life.
One point that I would like to point out is the prophet’s hardships. Being God’s messenger, being His admonishing conscience in an unfaithful world, the speaker of Truth, is certainly a great gift from God, but also a big cross. And it cannot be otherwise. A few days ago, during my retreat in Omaha at the IPF, I was talking with the deacon leading my retreat about my interest in the Social Teaching of the Church, in economics &morals and he looked at me, fixed me in the eyes and said: “Do you know, fr. Pietro, that living fully the Catholic Social Teaching takes you to martyrdom?” I was surprised, as you might be surprised, hearing such strong words. But thinking at them attentively, I cannot but surrender to this statement. It is true, indeed.
I remember years ago, during my years of seminary, I was reading a daily column on the Italian catholic newspaper “Avvenire” written by Mons. Gianfranco Ravasi, now head of the Pontifical Council of Culture. One day he wrote an odd story, about a man staying in a marketplace, who had something very particular to offer to the passers-by. He had this card, written on it in big letters: “Do you want to become a teacher of truth?” One man stops, curious about this and asks what do one needs to do in order to be a teacher of truth? “Well, he says, you need to suffer insults, to be ready to be laughed at, badly treated, maybe even be beaten and all kinds of hardships. All this for at least 30 years”
“But… Why 30 years?! What will happen after 30 years?”
“Well, by that time you would just get used to it”
Many times we might have heard that through baptism we received Christ’s prophetical mission. It is true. But we should well bear in mind that prophesy is about telling the Truth, the objective truth which the Holy Church handled on to us throughout the centuries. It is a matter of faith and faithfulness to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and a matter of charity to our fellows that the Lord put on our ways in life. No one can give what he does not have. So, through the reading and meditation of God’s Word, faithfully taught by the Church, through the personal training in the mission we have received from God , through a deep understanding and living of the faith so that this faith can become culture, as the Blessed John Paul II used to say (“A faith that does not become culture is not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived”) well, all this require a deep spiritual life.
There can be no faithfulness to the mission of a prophet, to martyrdom, without a deep spiritual life, without holiness which is our goal, our vocation in life, for “without me you can do nothing”. But we know that with the Lord “nothing is impossible”.
I would end with this beautiful reference to the Eucharist that we find in the following chapter (read entirely 1 Kings 19, 4-8).
May the Lord help us live faithfully our mission in this world, through the Eucharistical nourishment that we receive each day from Him, even here at Acton University, so that we can handle all the hardships of this life and enjoy Him in the eternity!