Today the prophet Elijah again 1 Kgs 17:1-6 enters into the story, and an understanding of Jesus can be gleaned through Elijah. Elijah was the prophet that preached a kingdoms return to the God of the covenant. The king of Israel and his pagan wife Jezebel had promoted the worship of a pagan god, Baal. Elijah was a fierce opponent of Ahab and spent his days preaching a return to the God of the Israelites. He preached that they cease offering sacrifice to Beelzebub, and stop erecting altars to that pagan deity. Elijah’s constant preaching attracted much anger from the royal couple, and the true God told him to hide at the Wadi Cherith. A wadi is a valley or ravine. Now to the gospel.
In the gospel reading Mt 5:1-12 Jesus spots the crowds that had been following him, and he then goes to a top of a mountain. At that mountaintop Jesus delivers the beatitudes to his disciples. The beatitudes are a famous series of blessings that Jesus bestows on those disciples. The blessings are remarkable because they are given to an assembly of people who might never had been blessed in that ancient world before. Many were marginalized members of society, downtrodden, poor, and fearful of authorities. The attributes of those people who received the blessings were not the type of things the ancient world held in high esteem. When Jesus offered the Beatitudes, many might have said “but why?”
These are two stories that invite comparison. Elijah’s flight from evil, and the disciple’s ascent towards the good news of Jesus Christ. Both Elijah, and those disciples had other options. Elijah could have been obedient to the evil earthly King, and in doing so probably would have lived in comfort. He could have behaved like everyone else, but he did not. He made a decision to follow the true God despite the challenges it placed before him. In his retreat from the evil king, he marched toward God. The Disciples of Christ did the same, they went against the customs of the day and took a risk. They followed Jesus up a mountain. They actively pursued the Truth, they took a risk and were blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted… .”
Drift now towards a commentary on today. We too have earthly kings, we too live in a society of changing, challenging, customs and rules and expectations. If one is to listen to society, does one hear a faithfulness to God? Does one see a society that embraces the commandments of a true God, or has society created its own set of rules? Has a true God been replaced with something of our own liking? How different is our society from that of Ahab and Jezebel, one blatantly unfaithful the covenant? What does our society embrace and promote; and what does our God tell us ? God blesses one thing, and man another. Which direction then do we go? What are we willing to endure to pursue a truth? It seems we are given the same choice as Elijah and Jesus’s Disciples, who do we listen to and where do we turn? It seems that those disciples, like Elijah, had a choice. They had the opportunity for both a blessing and a curse, depending on their own actions.
Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time