First, on this Veteran’s Day, we want to express our gratitude and esteem to all veterans present here. We thank God for your service. We pray for peace.
Over the past 10 years I have been to Southern California on business several times, which has given me a chance to see the effects of the drought that started in 2011 and, in some areas, is still ongoing. Places that were once green and lush turned brown, and people tore up their lawns to replace them with rocks or cactuses.
That came to mind when I read about the drought described in our first reading from the book of Kings. That drought, and the resulting famine, was called down by Elijah the prophet as punishment because the king and the people did what is evil in the Lord’s sight. No rain fell for 3 years. When we enter the story Elijah meets a widow who was preparing to bake her last remaining handful of flour and last bit of oil into bread. When it was gone, she and her son would starve to death. Elijah invites her to trust in the Lord, and she, her son and Elijah survived the famine on the jar of flour that did not grow empty and the jug of oil that did not run out.
It may seem to us today in America that we are living in a time of famine. Not a famine of food, though there are far too many hungry among us. But a famine of love. A famine of civility, of respect and of morals. This week’s tragic news of 12 people murdered in California followed on the news of 11 people murdered in Philadelphia. We daily see and hear rude and immoral words and actions by our politicians and business leaders. The mid-term election seem only to be leading towards more divisiveness.
As Catholics in the United States, it may seem as if our famine has been going on for a long time, with the end not yet in sight. The news makes it clear that some of those who we counted on to lead us, to shepherd us, are predators, and apparently have been for a long time. Even worse, those who knew and should have acted turned away, ran away, remained silent.
So how do we, as Americans and as Catholics, survive in this time of famine?
I think we can draw some lessons from today’s scripture readings.
The widow, her son and Elijah survived the famine on the bread and the oil.
We to will survive if we depend upon the bread, which for us today is the bread of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, the daily bread we will ask for in a few minutes when we recite the Lord’s prayer. The Eucharist reveals God’s great plan of love for us. God knows that our world is in a state of famine. That people are hungry for love, for communion, for community. They are hungry for God. And that’s why He gives us the Eucharist.
We will survive this famine by depending on the oil, which reminds us of the holiness of the Church, the Sacred Chrism with which we were anointed at our baptism.
For many, saying that the Church is holy is quite provocative. After all, how can the Church possibly be holy when our membership is made up of sinners? How can the Church be holy if we have before us every day the evidence of crimes committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons? How can dare say that the Church is holy?
Pope Francis recently wrote that the Church is holy only because “she comes from God who is holy, God who is faithful to her and never abandons her to the power of death and evil. She is holy because Jesus Christ, Son of God, is indissolubly united to her; she is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit which purifies, transforms, and renews. She is not holy by our merits, but because God makes her holy”.
My friends, if our merits do not make the Church holy then nothing we her members can do, no matter how evil, can cause her to lose that holiness. That does not mean that we cannot pray for the end of famine. Pray for the Church, and for those harmed by abuses of the clergy. Pray for the Church as a force for love, for justice and healing and assistance for those in need — especially the poor, the unemployed, the refugee, and victims of war and human trafficking.
Try to hasten the end of our famine by advancing the work of the Church in promoting love, morality, civility, and human dignity. Do what you can to support the many good works of the Church. Out of love the Church provides healthcare for the poor when no one else will and establishes orphanages that protect and nourish the innocent. She establishes ministries, agencies and societies to fight for the family and the dignity of all human persons. Do what you can and a little more- it will be for you as the widow’s coins were in the Gospel today.
Above all, in this time of famine and in all times of need, as Americans and as Catholics, depend upon God to who sends us what we need. He sends us our daily bread, which is the body of his son, and he sends us the oil of the holiness of the Church, which he came to give us. Remember that we depend upon God for all our needs. The jar of flour will not grow empty and the jug of oil will not run out.