Thursday, June 9, 2016

ELIJAH'S DISILLUSIONMENT


Homily for June 10th, 2016. 1 Kings: 19:9a, 11-16.

          The prophet Elijah, whom we encounter in today’s first reading, is one of the great figures in the Old Testament. He and Moses appeared with Jesus at his Transfiguration, when Jesus’ face and clothes shone with an unearthly, heavenly light. Elijah has just achieved the greatest triumph of his life. In a contest atop Mt. Carmel the disciples of the false god Baal have failed to receive any answer at all to their prayer for fire from heaven to consume the sacrificial offering they have prepared for their god.

          Elijah prepares his own altar and sacrifice. To make his achievement more dramatic, and to demonstrate the power of the true God of Israel to do the humanly impossible, Elijah orders the altar and the sacrificial gifts he has placed upon it to be drenched with water. Then, at his prayer, fire comes from heaven to consume everything Elijah has prepared.

          Enraged at Elijah’s triumph over the Baal worshippers, whom she favors, the wicked queen Jezebel vows death for Elijah, who flees for his life to the cave at Horeb, where we meet him in our first reading. Deeply disillusioned, he pours out his complaints to the Lord God. “I have been the most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts,” he cries out. . . . “I alone am left,” he tells God, “and they seek to take my life.”

The Lord’s response to these understandable complaints is to send Elijah on a new mission. “Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus,” the Lord commands. “When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Then you shall anoint Jehu . . .  as king of Israel, and Elisha . . . as prophet to succeed you.”

          What does this tell us? No individual, no matter how great his or her achievement and character, is indispensable. Elijah’s work is finished. He must prepare others to carry it on.

          So must each one of us, one day: when the Lord calls us home to be with him, and with the loved ones have preceded us, forever.