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August 6, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 20

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Believe as you Pray »

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photo: Richard Linneberger

believe as you pray

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
August 5, 2012

Ex 16:2-4, 12-15
Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Eph 4:17, 20-24
Jn 6:24-35

“The good old days.” Isn’t that one of our favorite expressions?

It seems the older I get, the more frequently that expression appears in my conversation. How easy it is to think back to a previous time in our history and think that was the “golden time.” The time when everything was perfect, there were no problems and life was just grand.

The first reading from Scripture this coming Sunday has the Israelites in the desert thinking back to “the good old days.”

Everything was just perfect, there were no problems and life was just grand when they were in Egypt.

Although they had been held captive in slavery, “we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.” (Ex 16:3) Now they are in the desert and minimizing and almost denying the pain of slavery.

More important, they forgot that it was God who had said: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering.” (Ex 3:7)

How easy it is to forget that God is also present now. It is so easy to think God was present only in the past when there were good things present. When we do not like what is happening now, we think that God was present only then. Only good happened then and not now. Translated: God was present only then and not now.

Is this not true when some describe the Church? Only in a certain day and age was the Church in its fullness. Only then was there good in the Church.

Refusing to see God present now, namely there is good now, sounds just like the Israelites who said “would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 16:3)

Or is this not true when some describe the politics and world situations today? Only in a certain day and age was the world in its fullness. Only then was there good in politics and in the world.

Refusing to see God present now, namely there is good now, sounds just like the Israelites who said “would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt.” (Ex 16:3)

The same “good old days” approach can be applied regarding our families, our work situations, our local communities and churches, and the list goes on and on.
Yes, it is true God was present in the past — no doubt about that. There was good in the past — no doubt about that. However, if we forget that God is present now in our midst, in each and every situation we encounter, then we are in our own desert.

During this week take a moment to identify one area in which God is truly present in your life. Where is the good in your life?

Only when we identify and realize God’s presence, the gift of goodness, are we freed from our desert and come to know “that I, the Lord, am your God.” (Ex 16:12)

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photo: tony magliano

sOCIAl MATTERS

Climate Change: It’s real and it’s dangerous!

Vast raging forest fires, a gigantic wind and thunderstorm system, and boiling record breaking temperatures have helped to further convince millions of us — including the vast majority of climatologists — that the earth’s climate is dangerously changing, and human-induced global warming is at the heart of it.

A few weeks ago, a massive “land hurricane” starting in the upper midwest, plowed a deadly destructive path south and east toward the mid-Atlantic.

And with two long months still to go, this summer has already produced huge blazing wildfires in Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and especially Colorado, where Governor John Hickenlooper declared “This is the worst fire season in the history of Colorado.”

A leading climate scientist, Jonathan Overpeck, told Associated Press that this summer’s weather so far is “what global warming looks like. . . The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire” (For excellent segments go to: http://www.democracynow.org/special/extreme_weather).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), January to June 2012 was the warmest first half of any year on record for the lower 48 states. In June alone, over 3,000 daily-high temperature records were tied or broken.

Furthermore, climate watchers are very concerned that all 10 of the warmest 12-month periods on record have occurred in the last 15 years.

A new NOAA study concluded that recent extreme weather events are likely connected to human induced climate change.

Studying 50 years of weather data in Texas, the report said that the drought there in 2011 was “roughly 20 times more likely” due to human made climate change, caused from greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels — like oil and gas.

Tom Karl, who heads NOAA’s climate office, said that the extreme weather phenomena not only in Texas but throughout the world cannot be explained by natural variability alone because naturally “they’re just too rare, too uncommon.”

NOAA made clear in their study that the climate change they’ve identified is man-made.
In 2011 a working group of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences issued a sobering report on the reality of climate change.

In their declaration, the working group called “on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic [human made] emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses.”

The report called on nations to “reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of the climate system.”

Furthermore, the report urged that poor countries receive the necessary assistance required to weather the global warming storm, caused overwhelmingly by industrialized nations.

It is imperative that we quickly convert from energy systems fueled by dangerous coal, oil and nuclear power, to clean sustainable energy sources of wind, solar, wave and geothermal which will dramatically reduce global warming.

Moving toward a comprehensive modern mass transit system, electric vehicles, increased recycling and the planting of new forests are also essential to reversing catastrophic climate change.

And don’t forget to change your light bulbs to energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs.

In his 2010 World Day of Peace Message, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “If we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us.”

Let’s work to protect planet earth — the only home we have!

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photo: barbara hughes

in light of faith

Elijah, Holy Man of God

“Where in Scripture does it say that Elijah was depressed because he killed the prophets of Baal?”

This was one of the questions that I received last week about my last column. To his credit, the writer had researched the topic and could not find a connection and so he wanted to know my source.

In responding to his e-mail, I decided that a follow up to his question in this week’s column might be in order because Chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Kings serves as an amazing window into the love and mercy and patience of God, a topic which is always timely. But first to the writer’s query as to my source.

I first heard about the connection between Elijah’s plea “Take my life O Lord, for I am no better than my forefathers” and his killing of the prophets of Baal when I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The trip was made in celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Carmelite rule from St. Albert the Great and so in addition to the usual Christian sites, we visited sites that were pertinent to the prophet Elijah.

It was there that I learned that Jewish tradition posits what modern psychology and Christian theology confirm, which is that when personal behavior violates an informed and healthy conscience, a person will experience a heavy heart and feel remorse.

We know that Elijah was a holy man and God-fearing prophet whom God used over and over to call the Israelites back their God. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah’s depression is the result of more than simply being tired of running for his life.

It was also a consequence that resulted from his slaying the prophets of Baal.

And this is where we have much to learn from the holy man. When he realized his failings, Elijah turned towards God, not away from God, and God responded by revealing Himself — not as a force to be reckoned with — but as the gentlest of breezes which caused Elijah to cover his face in the presence of so profound a God.

Lessons to be learned from Elijah are far too numerous to address in this column so I recommend reading and reflecting on the Book of Kings 1-2 to gain a deeper appreciation of this Hebrew saint.

Through Elijah we are privy not only to the intimate relationship that exists between God and His people but we learn of the tenderness with which God cares for us, collectively and individually. It is little wonder then that the prophet Elijah is greatly esteemed by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

Muslims refer to him as the Green Prophet, because he was lifted up to heaven while still alive.

Many Muslim women who are seeking to become pregnant or who are experiencing difficult pregnancies come to pray at the Church of Elijah the Prophet, a Catholic Church in Haifa, located at the foot of the Carmelite Monastery. When leaving the hospital after giving birth, it is often one of the first places a Muslim couple goes to give thanks to God. Talk about an ancient Hebrew bridging a religious divide thousands of years later.

If you’ve ever attended a Seder meal, you will know that the door is left ajar and an empty chair is set by the table for the prophet Elijah to enter and dine with those gathered.

Many Muslims believe the prophet Elijah will be present at the last judgment. We see evidence in the Gospels that the Jews expected Elijah to return to earth in another form.

Some thought John the Baptist was Elijah, others thought Jesus was the prophet returned to earth. During the transfiguration of Jesus (celebrated on August 6) Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah. He stood in the center with Moses and Elijah on either side.

This is significant because Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses and was the final great prophet.

Unlike the Jews and Muslims, Christians believe Jesus will judge us at the end of the world. We don’t look for him to return in another form, though questions and speculation still exist about what form his body took when he was lifted up to heaven and what became of the fiery chariot.

I recall driving home from a Carmelite retreat a few years ago. The retreat was on the prophetic dimension of Carmelite spirituality based on Elijah the prophet and I had just gotten onto the D.C. Beltway when an old red, beat up Volkswagen Bug passed me as if I was standing still.

All I could do was laugh. Staring back at me was the license plate bearing the letters “ELIJ 4U.” Not exactly a fiery chariot, but whoever the person was, he got my attention.

I almost expected to see an old bearded Hebrew wave to me from behind the wheel. Still if Elijah came back today, I would like to think that’s exactly the kind of car he would be driving.

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