August 12, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
August 12, 2018
1 Kings 19:4-8
Fr. George Smiga
“I can’t go on. I will go on.” Those eight words are a quotation from the Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, a writer who is known for his terse and paradoxical statements. How can you go on, if you can’t go on? The two statements contradict one another. Yet it is in the middle of that contradiction that Beckett invites us to find meaning. Many of us here have been in a situation where we felt we could not go on. In grieving the loss of a loved one in death, in coping with a progressive disease, we can come to the point where our energy is depleted and we feel we need to stop. Consumed by depression because of some failure, rejection, or even the advancing of age may lead us to think we must sit down and quit. We can’t go on.
Yet we do go on. Another day begins and we are in it. Responsibilities arise and we meet them. We go on even though we can’t go on. We end up living in the middle of this contradiction, and living there is not easy. This is why our reading today from 1 Kings is helpful, for it shows us how we can soften the transition from where we can’t go to where we do go. The prophet Elijah has come to the end of his rope. His enemies have driven him into the desert. He believes that his life is over. He says, “It is enough.” I can’t go on. But then the prophet does two things that we are called to imitate, if we find ourselves in a similar situation: He prays and he eats.
In his prayer to God, Elijah tells God exactly how he feels. He tells God that he is finished. He even asks God to end his life. God does not end his life. But the expression of hopelessness is the beginning of Elijah’s healing. In the same way when we feel we cannot go on, we need to have the freedom to tell God exactly how we feel. We need to speak our pain from our hearts without filter. The honest expression of our pain can begin to lessen the despair and allow hope to grow.
But Elijah does not only pray, he also eats. Two times he eats the food that the angel of God brings to him. When we feel that we cannot go on, we too must eat the food that God offers, and God offers food to us in at least two ways. The first way that God offers us food is by the people in our lives who love us. The family and friends who know our pain and who help us carry it are God’s food for us. When we receive their love, it is nourishment for our soul. The second food that God offers us is the ability to give. God has entrusted every one of us with talents and abilities. It might be the talent of sewing, listening, teaching, or making other people laugh. When we give to others from the gifts we have received, that giving nourishes us. It is food that allows us to continue our journey.
I can’t go on. I will go on. I will tell God exactly how desperate and crushed I am, and I will surround myself with the people who love me and use my gifts for the good of others. By this prayer and this food I will go on, by God’s grace.