Prayer Changes People, People Change Things: Shipwreck and the Broom Tree
he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: "This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."
"He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food; he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb." (1 Kgs. 19:4-8)
In the 18th chapter of Kings Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He was seeking rest. He had learned of the threat upon his life from Jezebel. After that confrontation with the false prophets of Baal, this mighty man of God was so distraught that he prayed for death. This moment of complete fatigue became an invitation to deeper faith.
Retreating to a desert to die, under a broom tree, Elijah encountered the Lord through a messenger. That is what the word "Angel" means. His surrender to the voice of God, though reluctant at first, shows us how to hear the voice of God in those difficult times in our own lives. Like Elijah, when we reach the end of ourselves, we find the beginning of authentic faith; we surrender to the Lord.
The early Christians referred to death as falling asleep. It was the point of complete surrender into the loving arms of a loving God. In the experience of his weakness Elijah encountered the Lord in a different way. There, under the broom tree, he is fed a hearth cake and water, a Eucharistic symbol.
"He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food; he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb." (1 Kings 19:8) There he was prepared to hear the voice of God as He passed by, not in a mighty wind, an earthquake, or a fire - but in a gentle whisper - the kind that can only be heard by one who has a surrendered ear to hear. Humble - not haughty.
"Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake."
"After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?" (1 Kings 19:11 - 13)
Finally, I brought it all back to the New Testament in which the Old finds its fulfillment. I told my friends that millennia later, God came as a Man. He spoke on three mountains. On the first, He gave the new law through which His followers could call down the fire of love to consume the world through living their lives of poured-out-love after his Ascension.
On the second, He was transfigured before the eyes of three of his disciples in the presence of Elijah and Moses, fulfilling both the law and the prophets and showing them the future glory for all who walked in His way. And on the third, He spoke in a whisper - "It is finished" - and give himself up in complete surrender to redeem the world that had rejected His love.
There are lessons that can only be learned under the broom tree. The lesson St Paul gave to the early Christians in Greece about the reality of being shipwrecked and experiencing daily struggles in life is critical in our age. God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him, no matter what happens. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and then to give in - to Him.
But when we do - the life of true, living and enduring faith begins. It is there we learn to hear the God of surrendered love in the whisper of the wind. It is there that we learn to be shipwrecked and live under the broom tree. Prayer Changes People and People Change Things.
I spend a lot of time under the broom tree as I grow older. The shipwrecks have now become something I expect. I have come to see struggle as a holy place, a place of invitation, in an unfolding loving plan of God.
It is under the broom trees and in the shipwrecks of daily living - when I feel the least able to continue the struggle - that I learn the joy of surrendering myself to the One who always sends His messengers. The One who always makes sure that I find the sustenance I need for the journey of life. There I continue to learn the way of living faith which opens the door to eternity.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Elijah, St Paul, conversion, suffering, failure, struggles, Christian maturity, spirituality, Bible, Old testament, New Testament, holiness, Deacon Keith Fournier
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Living Faith News
- Pope Francis says atheists can do good and go to heaven too!
- Receiving the Eucharist: I Have Decided to Kneel For Jesus
- Exorcism or not, it's still a miracle
- The Holy Spirit: Sanctifier and Giver of Life, Love and Truth
- Pope Francis tweets his prayers following devastation in Moore
- The Paraclete: The Counselor Who Helps Us Fulfill Our Calling
- Pope Francis calls for change within the Church
- Atheists to have their books placed atop Gideon Bibles
- Killer whale with missing fins cared for by its pod family
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?