Ordinary Time 19, Year B
- Creation is made subject to futility…, but it is not without hope (Rom. 8:20)
“This is enough, Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Thus prayed Prophet Elijah for death, convinced that he could no longer cope.
He lost self-confidence, this important Old Testament figure, in pretty much the same way that did the other great figure who was also at Jesus’ side during his transfiguration (cf. Num. 11:14-15). But the loss of self-confidence does not mean that Elijah gave up on God. It was precisely because he was losing self-confidence that Elijah, I believe, became convinced even more that there was no other alternative but to turn to God with greater urgency and to commend his spirit into God’s hands.
Without an experience of failure and defeat, I do not think Elijah would have been disposed to place his hopes on God. Those who triumph all the time and find no reason to distrust themselves tend to think that they can do everything and that on them depends everything. That was what happened to the rich man who, his old barns torn down and larger ones built where to store all his grain and goods, says to himself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” (Lc. 12, 18-19)
Without experience of poverty, lack, misery, insecurity, mortality, I do not think Elijah would have understood more fully Yahweh’s revelation. God, says Carlo Carretto, “puts him into a state of crisis and makes him weak, because it is so difficult to explain things to someone who is always right, who always wins, who is absolutely sure of himself” (cf. chapter 5 of The God Who Comes). Such a one finds it easy to “conceive of a God who is strong, unconquerable, a castigator, a Lord of Hosts,” a God of the strong and heavy wind and of earthquakes and fire, but has great difficulty imagining a God of the tiny whispering sound, of a God of love who “is concerned not only with the police hauling off the wicked to justice,” but also “with the wicked who are just as much His sons, and who are to be converted, not destroyed.”
Without an experience of persecution and of being afraid, I do not believe Elijah would have come to acknowledge that he was no better than his fathers. And it looks like he thought himself before as of more worth than the others, claiming to be the sole surviving prophet of the Lord and losing count not only of Obadiah, who was a zealous follower of the Lord, too, and the hundred prophets Obadiah hid in two caves, but also of the seven thousand men who had not knelt to Baal or kissed him (1 Kgs. 18:3-4; 19:14, 18). I do not think it would be easy for someone with pretensions of religious zeal and moral superiority to become aware of the manner in which he may grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Nor do I believe it easy either for someone who is satisfied at home and in his neighborhood or country, where he has not hungered for justice and where it is supposed that everything is known about everybody, to get out of that zone of comfort to look for somebody who will satisfy him, or to recognize him who gives the bread of life of word and sacrament.
And isn’t it hard to believe that countries today, including those who always win, continue to offer resistance to him who is the Word made flesh, even though staying the course with the same old policies have made for many more wars and greater violence? The crisis in the Middle East tells me that it is time for us Christians, at least, to take far more seriously Christ’s teaching and comply, for instance, with St. Paul’s instruction that goes:
- All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
- must be removed from you, along with all malice.
- And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving
- one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
- So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live
- in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over
- for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
We have a long way to go yet, for sure, but we take courage because there is an offer of food that strengthens us for the journey.