By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, August 10, 2015

Else the Journey Be Too Much

The title of this post is inspired by the reading we heard at Mass on Sunday from the First Book of Kings. The passage recounts the flight of the prophet Elijah from forces hostile to him. He is exhausted from the journey, and an angel from God appears to him, points to a cake and some water that had miraculously appeared, and gives this command: "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

Our pilgrim journey through this earthly life can easily and quickly become "too much" for us if we lack the necessary nourishment. There are extraordinary pressures weighing upon individual and family life today that leave many exhausted. When I ask folks about the most significant factor challenging their families, the answer I frequently receive is: stress. The sources of this are many. I wonder what people are doing for "nourishment" in order to keep going, and worry about the multiplicity of quick fixes and escapes to which people turn. For example, statistics tell us that alarming percentages of people are medicated with antidepressants.

The good and hopeful news is that there is available to us an all-sufficient nourishment. As was the case with Elijah, it is given by God out of His tender concern for us. Unlike the prophet's remedy, what comes to us is not cake and water but what these gifts foreshadowed: the Bread of Life, which is Jesus Himself.

Every time the Eucharist is celebrated, Jesus gives us Himself, His very Body and Blood. It is a nourishment that gives the necessary strength for this earthly journey, yes, but not only that; "whoever eats of this bread will live forever..." (John 6: 51). When the priest gives voice to the invitation of Christ to take and eat, take and drink, we can hear an echo of that angelic admonition of old: "otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

Receiving this nourishment from the Eucharistic table has implications far beyond our own individual lives. This food opens our eyes and hearts to the needs of others and impels us to act in charity. It is heartbreaking to see millions of people in the underdeveloped parts of the world starving for lack of bread and for whom the journey is thus far too much. It frustrates and, indeed, angers to no end because we are all aware that there is sufficient food for all. Why the injustice? Could it be that it stems from wealthy society's self-imposed starvation, that is to say, its willful neglect of God and the nourishment given in Jesus? Separation from God and the food He gives yields not only exhaustion but also self-centredness. The illusion of self-reliance makes the needs of others a secondary concern.

The path currently traversed by the global community has, indeed, become too much. Famine, wars, terrorism, domestic violence and more beset us daily. They are pressures that we cannot possibly bear, that we are manifestly unable to resolve on our own. They leave us frustrated and exhausted. God is calling to all of humanity in the words spoken by the angel to Elijah: "Get up and eat." Come to Christ and the food that He is. In Him we discover what this journey is really all about. In Him it is never too much.