I spend a lot of time under the broom tree as I get older. I see it as a holy place, a place of invitation, in the unfolding loving plan of God in my own life. It is under the broom tree - when I feel the least able to continue the struggle -that I learn to surrender myself to the One who always sends His messengers. There, I often find the sustenance I need for the journey of life and learn the ways of living faith. God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and give in - to Him.
A Byzantine Icon of Elijah under the broom tree
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The first scripture reading at Holy Mass this entire week has recounted the life and ministry of the prophet Elijah.
One of my favorite biblical characters is the Prophet Elijah.
Many people have heard of the dramatic encounter between this great Old Testament prophet and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It is recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament Book of First Kings.
The prophet confronts hundreds who oppose him in a test of faith. Each builds an altar and calls upon his god to send fire to consume it. Elijah is the only one whose prayer is answered as the Altar and sacrifice are consumed by Fire.
However, many people are not familiar with the story that follows in the next chapter.
This same mighty prophet runs for cover-seeking refuge in a desert under a broom tree, begging God to take his life-when confronted by a wicked queen named Jezebel who has heard the news of the encounter from Ahab.
It is under the broom tree in our own lives that we often learn what may be the more important lesson for the journey. That is because it is there where most of us truly live.
It is there where we also have the hardest time surrendering our wills to the Will of God.
After Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel he was exhausted. Then he learned of the threat upon his life from Jezebel. We find this mighty man of God so distraught that he prays for death.
Retreating to a desert to die under a broom tree, he encounters the Lord, who visits him through a messenger. That is what the word Angel means. His surrender to the voice of God, though reluctant at first, shows us a pattern we can imitate in our own lives.
It teaches us how to hear the voice of God not in spite of but even through those difficult times in our own lives.
When we reach the end of ourselves, we find the beginning of authentic faith.
We read: "Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until 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)
I spend a lot of time under the broom tree as I get older.
I see it as a holy place, a place of invitation, in the unfolding loving plan of God in my own life. It is under the broom tree - when I feel the least able to continue the struggle -that I learn to surrender myself to the One who always sends His messengers.
There, I often find the sustenance I need for the journey of life and learn the ways of living faith.
Let me be clear, I marvel at the courage of Elijah and the power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to confound the false prophets of Baal. However, it is this same God who chooses to meet and dialogue with Elijah under that broom tree after that dramatic event.
Yet, it is this same Elijah who - even after the Carmel experience - runs into the desert, prays for death, and collapses in exhaustion under the broom tree. How very human. How very encouraging. How very real.
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 this experience of his weakness Elijah encounters the Lord in a different way. I propose that this encounter reveals the heart of Christian prayer, a call to surrendered love.
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 learns 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)
Millennia later, God came as a Man. He spoke on three mountains.
On the first, He gave the new law through which His followers would 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 their eyes 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 the words - It is finished - and gave himself up in complete surrender to redeem the world that had rejected His love.
There is a mystery here, deep and profound, yet as simple as the broom tree.
God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and give in - to Him.
When we do, the life of true 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 the Faith of Elijah, under the broom tree.
By Andrea Gagliarducci (CNA/EWTN News)
Former Pope Benedict XVI could appear in public once again on June 29, the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking after the May 20 presentation of a book dedicated to Benedict XVI's pontificate, Archbishop Georg ... continue reading
By Tony Magliano
The best way to remember those who have been killed in battle is to work for the day when others will no longer be sent to take their place. Prayerfully reflecting on how to move away from war and war preparation should be central to every Memorial Day.Why do ... continue reading
By Ann Scneible (CNA/EWTN News)
The feast of the Holy Trinity is an invitation for us to commit to enriching our everyday relationships by promoting communion, consolation, and mercy, Pope Francis said during his weekly Sunday Angelus address. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "Our being created ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
What we choose determines who we become. Choosing what is good changes the chooser, empowering him or her to proceed along the pathways of virtue and develop the habitus - or habits- which promote Christian character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Ever since the reveal of the Third Secret of Fatima in 2000, several people have insisted there's more to the secret than what the public was told. These rumors have taken a life of their own, prompting the Holy See to speak out against them. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading
By (CNA/EWTN News)
Recognizing the difference between a person who's possessed and a person struggling with a mental illness or other infirmity is a vital part of the ministry of exorcism, according to a long-time exorcist and priest. Rome, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Cipriano de Meo, ... continue reading
By (CNA/EWTN News)
It's a major miracle that you've probably never heard of. Lima, Peru (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sunday, Oct. 3, 1847, more than 2,000 people in Ocotlán, Mexico saw a perfect image of Jesus Christ crucified that appeared in the sky for more than 30 minutes.Approved by the ... continue reading
By (CNA/EWTN News)
During his Mass on Thursday, Pope Francis preached a warning to the rich who oppress the poor, focusing on employers who accumulate wealth by misusing those who work for them. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "We consider this drama of today: the exploitation of ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
William Friedkin, the director of famous horror film "The Exorcist," described a time he was invited to document a real exorcism at the Vatican. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to AFP, Friedkin shared his experience at the Cannes film festival Thursday ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
We all have bad days - but did you know the devil preys on you when you are the most vulnerable? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Life is never easy for long. Children, work, school and illness often interfere with the plans we've made for ourselves, and it is ... continue reading