Nobody finds fault with a marathon runner for getting tired while running such an epic race. Dear mothers, your life as a mother is a marathon as a matter of course. There have been times when I have spiritually and psychologically given my all to this mission of motherhood, only to hit the empty mark. Even after times of experiencing prophetic authority and sure victory, I have faced an unexpected blow coupled with physical exhaustion from the daily demands—I have felt that I could not go on. In an elemental sense, I hit empty. I have whispered it hoarse and tight from the “cave” of my bathroom, “There just isn’t any more of me. I’m done.”
Even the most dedicated saints experience discouragement, pessimism, a desire to withdraw from their calling, and even a sense of despair. These elements are not strange on the journey of the private apostolate of motherhood. In Elijah’s story, he is faced with exhaustion on several levels. He yields to hopelessness, and yet miraculously, the powerful grace of God led a way of renewal for this once bold, mighty prophet.
In crisis, Elijah has run away in a desperate attempt to escape and hide in a cave, wanting to end both his prophetic ministry and his life. In an act of provision and grace, God intervenes and sends a ministering angel. God gives his beloved prophet life-giving care—bread, water, and rest. He then sends Elijah on a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, the place that is associated with the source and essence of the Israelite faith and the sacred Ark of the Covenant. God led the way to re-establish him on his mission. Today’s Scripture reading calls out to us in our vocation as mothers—to those of us who are nearing empty—worn out, depressed, fearful, and in need of restorative renewal. The story of Elijah suggests a way forward for us—we need to eat and drink of God’s life-giving provision.
The Gospel reading reminds us that the way forward is ultimately a matter of spiritual physics—of our need for sustenance and belief in the power of the Eucharist. Jesus proclaims his extraordinary promise by declaring, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life . . . I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever (Jn 6:47-48). This true food, full of mysterious, life-giving nourishment is the bedrock of our faith. Jesus wants to be our literal sustenance—to give us his very self when we run dry, empty, and face despair. His loving presence incarnating himself is the source that leads us to new vision and renewed purpose. He becomes love for us, that we might be full of love in our apostolates as mothers!