What does it mean to say “faith is a gift”? In our first reading, Elijah is ready to give up on life, crying out to God. He is exhausted from running for his life into the desert. He falls asleep under a broom tree, a desert bush that must sink deep roots to reach water. In a dream Elijah is told to get up and eat; when he awakens he finds at his side unexpected cake and water. He falls asleep again, and is encouraged again to eat and drink. Then, and only then, is he ready to continue his journey to the mountain of God.
The ‘gift of faith’ is not a carrot-on-a-stick reward that leads us to God — rather, faith is the eyes to see God’s laboring presence, even in our desert experiences. Elijah’s story reminds us that God has been faithfully sustaining and feeding us in light of — and in spite of — the circumstances of our lives. God offers Elijah renewal and refuge under a tree, and provides him strength to continue his journey to God. But even Elijah needs a second reminder.
What, and who, has fed and sustained you in the desert experiences of life?
—Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University. He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.