Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Elijah and John the Baptist

Don’t miss the connection Our Lord makes between Elijah and John the Baptist. Elijah was the last believing prophet in Israel. He had just given public testimony concerning the reality of the transcendent God on the top of Mt. Carmel calling down divine fire on the animal victim that was turned into a holocaust. Pursued by Jezebel, he walks the forty miles to climb Mt. Horeb-Sinai to have his faith strengthened. He takes his place in a cave on the mountain where he is told to “go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here!’” And Elijah dialogued with God.

John the Baptist also was mighty in his testimony concerning God. But when he was cast in jail, doubt came over him and he sent messengers to ask if Jesus was really the Christ, the God-man, or not. The answer that came back was that Love was in the world in the form of giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, life to the death and the preaching of the Good News to the poor. Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.

The point is that both were looking for the transcendent God in big things that could impress the senses and give conceptual clarity to the mind. Both had to go through yet another conversion to perceive God. It was revealed to them that God was to be found only in faith and in the small things – in the whispering of the wind and healing the sick. There must be a conversion of the person from within to be able to see and recognize the presence of God right before our eyes. One has to give up everything to be able to see and hear God: “Elijah went over to him Elisha) and threw his cloak over im. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.’… Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”[1]

[1] First Book of Kings, 19, 1-9, 11-21.

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