In Today's first reading we see Elijah kneeling down and putting his head between his knees in prayer. He asks his servant to keep an eye out, and he does seven times. He keeps an eye out until Elijah has prayed 'enough.' In scripture, seven represents fullness, completion. Then this tiny cloud rises from the water. Elijah doesn't question it, he doesn't think "well it's so small, that's not what I asked for." No, he sends the message to Ahab to get on his chariot and get back to town, the gates of Heaven are about to open and water is going to flood them. If Ahab isn't ready, this flood is going to overcome him. It will stop him from getting where he needs to go. Then Elijah girds himself (again, getting ready!) and he takes off on foot. He stays in front of Ahab and beats him in a race back to Jezreel, foot vs horse. That's some super hero action there!
Elijah shows us that preparation is key. We have to be ready. Taking off on a race without stretching is going to lead to some disastrous consequences, maybe even injury. He doesn't take off until God has shown him that it's time, and then he trusts in it. Prayer. That's the start. That doesn't mean we have to spend hours in silence listening to Gregorian Chant (though that's kind of nice too.) It means that we take whatever moment we are, whatever circumstance we are in, and we pray through it. We don't live our lives in a vacuum. So we say our prayer while cleaning. While changing diapers. While walking to the car. While driving. We make those actions our prayers. St. Paul talks about running the race, crossing the finish line with our heads held high, it requires diligence, training, preparation, and movement.
When we think of our spiritual lives, the first thing that pops into my mind is the Mass. Jesus reminds us that before we come to that altar we must examine our conscience. If there is anything that is between us and our brother, we aren't to come up but to leave our offering there and go to our brother. Otherwise the opponent is going to take us before the judge. How often do we ignore that? How often do we just come on up with some sin in our heart, some injury we have failed to take care of. We come to the most important prayer on this planet, the moment when Heaven itself touches earth, when we come forth to receive the Body and Blood of Christ into our own frail, mortal bodies. Do we spend our time in prayer? Do we read the readings before hand? Do we prepare by going to our brother (the Priest) in confession and settling any debt we have?
St. Paul also says that if we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord unworthily, then we are responsible for his death. That's a strong statement. Too many of us, myself included, run into Mass at the last minute, make a quick genuflection and stumble through the book trying to find the song that has already started. I think today's readings are a clear calling to make things right. To reach out to those we have hurt, and to Christ himself in the Sacrament of Confession and say, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner." In our society where the mantra is "you do you and I'll do me," Reconciliation has become something that many don't make use of. A channel of grace, an encounter with Christ himself, where the line sometimes is non existent. I believe if we truly understood what happens in that room, we wouldn't be scared to go, instead we'd be running trying to get in there. How about it? Are you ready before going up to receive? There is no shame in sitting this one out, waiting in the pew with your head bowed while others go up to receive Him, or walking forward with your arms crossed just to be in his presence.
Much better isn't it? To settle out of court now? Than to risk being thrown into the prison where you will "not get out until you have paid every penny."
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."