The First Reading for the Mass for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) is from 1st Book of Kings Chapter 19, verses 4-8;
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.
I attended the Vigil Mass last night to fulfill one of the requirements for the First Saturday Devotion (receiving Holy Communion) and the First Reading from 1 Kings struck me. Elijah is depressed after having slain the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel. Jezebel took issue with this and has threatened Elijah’s life if she ever caught him, and so now he is on the run.
Despite his success in defeating the false prophets and showing Israel just Who the True God is, he is at a loss as to what to do next. He feels defeated as he has no support amongst anyone in Israel. This, despite the obvious support of God, by Whom Elijah wrought his victory over the false prophets of Jezebel.
I think many of us can relate; despite obvious signs of Divine Providence in the past, we may be now going through difficult times and are at the end of our proverbial rope. We may even yearn for death; not in any suicidal manner, but just as a release from the uncertainties and transitory ways of our secular life and the joy of hopefully getting to Heaven. There, we find eternal peace, happiness and freedom form anxiety, fear and the need for material support like income and food as well as no longer having to suffer from our own character defects. But we don’t get that; it’s not God’s will that we join Him yet.
But, as Elijah discovers, from within the depths of despair or loneliness comes a sudden reversal of fortune and circumstance. God suddenly has something for him to do and He supplies Elijah with the means to do it.
I hope we all have had similar experiences. I know one time in late 1993, I was unemployed and facing eviction and on the same day, just in time, I landed a decent job and an apartment. Despair was gone and I felt pretty good about myself for having faced down those threats and survived. (A side note: although I believed in God, this happened during a period when I was not practicing any religion.)
There is a word for this: Eucatastrophe – Wikipedia:
A eucatastrophe is a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible and probable doom. The writer J. R. R. Tolkien coined the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically inspired literary criticism to refer to the “unraveling” or conclusion of a drama’s plot.
So, Elijah experienced a ‘eucatastrophe,’ as did I in November 1993. The biggest eucatastrophe is of course, the Resurrection. Eucatastrophes I think happen when things get out of control, either by external circumstances or our own neglect, and God will that He intervenes before we perish. This means He still has plans for us in some way. Perhaps He intervenes despite our past neglect and complacency; perhaps He Wills it to happen so as to show His might and power. Ultimately, all things work to glorify God. My life experience glorifies Him because although at the time I attributed it to my sudden newfound ‘street smarts,’ in retrospect it was done for me by Him in spite of myself. (And I wasn’t even a Catholic, or any kind of Christian!)
I need a eucatastrophe within a month. I know ‘something’ will happen, but there is the anxiety driven by not knowing when relief will come. But, Faith assures us when Fear tries to tell us the worst will happen.
We just have to Trust in Him.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)