Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the Days of Elijah

The first reading for Mass this week is taken from the first book of Kings; we're in the "Elijah cycle," with stories about that unique prophet, the "model" prophet of Israel. The setting is a three-year drought. Evil King Ahab has killed all the prophets but Elijah, who has escaped his hand. Even though Ahab is sending armies to the neighboring kingdoms, in case any of them is harboring his nemesis, Elijah is safe in the desert. God "commanded the ravens to bring him...bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening," and he found water in a little stream. (I have consistently been distracted from my meditation by those ravens. I would have to be pretty darn hungry to eat "bread and meat" dropped to me by flying scavengers.)
Today's reading continues the drought story: the brook dried up, and Elijah, still in peril from the king, has to move on. It struck me that even though Elijah was a great prophet, a "man of God" "at whose word the heavens were shut" from giving rain, he also suffered the effects of the drought. He wasn't given some magic dispensation from the drought; he bore in his own body the same sufferings everyone else was enduring. And he was no less an "accredited prophet of the Lord" for that. Funny how I subconsciously expected that the prophet would get a free pass on the punishment being felt by the people of the land! It's not God's way at all. He wouldn't even give himself a free pass on suffering when he "was made flesh and dwelt among us."

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