About two months ago I was going to say mass in Tombae and then in Lossiemouth. There was a gap between the two masses big enough to have a hike. I had checked the forecast – it was not so bad: cloudy, but not rainy. So I decided to climb a hill in Glenlivet called Cook’s Cairn. First stage is quite boring and long – one hour and a half walking through the meadows along the river Livet. After the first fifteen minutes I had to change my clothes because of the heat. Finally I reached the glen where I started to climb the hill. The path seemed to have no end. I walked step by step, always up, with the burning sun behind me, motionless air around me and a heavy rucksack on my back. That was my first long hike since I had twisted my ankle and I started to feel pain in it. There were some moments when I had to stop and felt like turning back. I felt exhausted and powerless. Once I looked toward the hill and discovered that the summit is some 15 minutes walk away; it gave me hope. When I approached it turned out to be a ridge hiding further parts of the slope behind. I was discouraged. But I said to myself: If I have come this far surely I can reach the summit even if it kills me.
In the Bible a mountain is always a special place of meeting God. For many biblical characters like Abraham, Moses or Elijah climbing up a mountain changed their lives, pushing them to new tasks or missions. But reaching a summit is not easy. Everyone who climbs knows very well what I mean. Discouragement appears very quickly; a person asks himself what’s the point of going on?
Discouragement is not connected with climbing only. I think it is becoming more and more common in people’s lives. The changing world and developing technology makes us expect quick and easy results. Some decades ago people could wait for weeks for a letter to arrive, now an email can reach the target in seconds. Some decades ago a journey took weeks and months; nowadays a journey around the earth takes 2-3 days. These are very convenient advantages, but by the way we are losing patience and perseverance. We expect quick results. Long waiting for something makes us angry or discouraged.
In today’s first reading we see the prophet Elijah, who wants to die. He is discouraged, because his effort to re-establish true religion in Israel met opposition; the queen Jezebel promised he will be killed. Elijah lying under the bush awaits death. Suddenly he is waken up to eat. But there is not a great feast with a delicious meal; just simple scone and water. This simple meal gives him strength to reach the mountain of God. The power is not connected with calories, but with hope; this meal gives him a spiritual strength to overcome his weakness; this meal encouraged him to overcome his discouragement.
The eucharist is a similar meal for the faithful. Strength coming from it is not in calories, but in hope. When we receive the eucharist with living faith, it helps us to overcome our discouragement. It gives us strength to reach God’s mountain: eternal life.