1 Kings 19: 4-8
Recently I have had individual conversations with two priest whom I admire and respect for their wisdom, years of faithful service and their ability to move their congregations to a deeper love of God. Their comments disturbed me because they have faithfully listened to God’s vision for community building and unity, to the call to discipleship leading to lives of service in the kingdom of God. Both expressed sentiments of being tired of the constant pettiness, lack of involvement, self-centeredness, a narrow view of faithfulness by their congregation and an unwillingness to change by their parishioners.
Elijah in todays gospel is equally disillusioned in his serving of God. He is dejected, tired, frustrated by opposition and one would wonder why he is having those feelings. Elijah has just ended a two year famine in the land by his listening to God and by his challenge to the prophets of Ball. The end of the drought was no small feat and it demonstrated God’s provident care of his people. This was to instill in them a constant faith in God’s love and concern for us his sons and daughters. It was more than rain which fell that day for it was also a demonstration of God’s power. The challenge was deliberate on Elijah’s part as he challenged the prophets of Baal to a demonstration of the power of God versus the impotence of an idol. His intended to provide a clear choice of why people should worship God instead of Baal.
I invite you to take the time to read about this in 1 Kings chapter 18. Elijah’s intent was bold, daring and insulting to those who believed in and put their faith in an idol instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The prophets of Baal failed to arouse their god to action while God in response to Elijah’s prayer responded in a miraculous way.
This failure of Baal’s prophets and success of Elijah angered Queen Jezebel and she demanded Elijah’s head because he humiliated and then killed the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah after a miraculous display of God’s power fled for his life instead of staying on Mt. Carmel and rely on God to protect him from Jezebel. Not only does he flee but he begs to die, to end it all because he is tired of the resistance to God’s invitation to embrace him.
On this weekend and for the past two weekends we have an obvious message about the Eucharist and its importance in our lives. However, the latest data shows that 70% of Catholic’s do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. How can we be so complacent when we have a message that the food God provides is enough to sustain Elijah for 40 days without having another drink or any other bread to eat. This is a message we cannot ignore but it seems we do ignore it or at a minimum are not tapping into the spiritual benefits or taking Christ into ourselves.
We seem to be more concerned about things that are on the peripheral of our faith and ignore the heart of our faith which is the saving act of Christ by his shed blood and death on Calvary. Jesus invites us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, so we may have life. Life is to be lived by doing the will of God in the kingdom he came to establish on earth. There is work to be done and it involves us being the prophets we became as we received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at our baptism.
Paul speaks to us about this in the second reading today when he encourages us to put aside all bitterness, fury and anger. Not just submerge these things so we do not do act on our feelings but instead he tells us to allow the Holy Spirit to remove them from us.
Once we invite that Spirit to transform our hearts we will be exactly the people God intended us to become as we exhibit compassion, forgiveness and kindness. We can and will become not imitators of Christ for if imitation is our intent then that means we are in control as we are trying to be pleasing to God. Instead, if we allow the Spirit to change our hearts (which Jesus says the Spirit will do) we become the image of Christ and pleasing to God automatically.
Instead of inviting the Spirit to change us, we easily get discouraged with the daily battles of life as did Elijah and those two priests.
We then look at the externals instead of relying on God to open the eyes of our hearts and see what we must do instead of what we flee from doing. Stop murmuring Jesus tells us there is only one way to the Father and that is by Jesus bringing us into the presence of the Father. Each time we come to church we should ask Jesus to bring us into the presence of his Father by all we do during the mass.
Allow the songs we sing be an acceptable worship as we join the communion of Saints giving glory to God.
Allow the Word of God to penetrate our hearts as we are reminded by Jesus that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Allow the Eucharist to bring us to that life which Jesus promises us if only we eat his flesh and drink his blood by expecting it to happen as we acknowledge it by our amen.
I have to say those two priests did not allow their moments of being human to distract them from doing what they do best and that is to rely on God to enable them to serve with power and love. That in the end is what Elijah discovered that day under the broom tree as he prayed for an end to the battles to make God’s love known to those who reject him.
Can we do less for we have been empowered by our call to make God’s forgiveness, his love and his desire to embrace us known.