Daily Homily: Where Is the Lord, the God of Elijah?

Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14
Psalm 31:20, 21, 24
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

When the Lord was about to take the prophet Elijah up to heaven, Elijah appointed Elisha as his successor. This appointment took place after the death of King Ahaziah, who had reigned over Israel for two years (853-852BC). Like many of the kings of Judah and Israel, Ahaziah was a wicked king: instead of consulting the God of Israel through the prophet Elijah, Ahaziah chose to consult Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if he will recover from an accidental fall (2 Kings 1:1-3). When Elijah condemned the king for consulting foreign gods, the king attempted to arrest him, but Elijah defended himself by calling down fire to destroy two detachments of soldiers (see T. Leclerc,Introduction to the Prophets, Paulist Press, 93). Ahaziah did not recover from his fall and, after his death, his brother Jehoram became king.

Elijah’s successor, Elisha, was the prophet of Israel during the reigns of four kings: Jehoram (852-841), Jehu (841-814), Jehoahaz (814-798), Jehoash/Joash (798-782). After Elisha died, God called Amos, a prophet active during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746) to be his prophet to Israel. The first readings,both this week and next, prepare us for the next eight weeks (13th-20th week in ordinary time), during which we read from eight prophets that lead us from the fall of the kingdom of Israel to the time of the Babylonian exile: Amos (750), Hosea (780-725), Isaiah (740), Micah (737-693), Jeremiah (626-587), Nahum (615-612), Habakkuk (612) and Ezekiel (622-570).

Before he departs from this world, Elijah, like Moses and Joshua before him, divides a body of water so that he and Elisha may cross the Jordan on dry ground. This mysterious ending to Elijah’s prophetic career led to the tradition that his work was not done. He will one day return before the Lord would come (Malachi 4:4-6) (see T. Leclerc, Introduction to the Prophets, Paulist Press, 93). In the New Testament, Elijah returns in the figure of John the Baptist, who announces the coming of the Messiah, and returns at he transfiguration, before the Messiah goes up to Jerusalem to die for us on the Cross.

Elisha asked Elijah for a portion of his spirit and is granted his request. Elijah performed eight miracles, Elisha performed thirteen: he parted the waters of the Jordan (2:13-14); transformed bad water into good (2:19-22); filled the stream-bed with water (3:16-18); supplied oil for a widow (4:1-7); prophesied that a barren woman will have a son (4:15-17); restored a child to life (4:18-37); turned spoiled stew into edible stew (4:38-41); fed one hundred men with twenty loaves of bread (4:42-44); cleansed a leper (5:1-27); floated an ax head (6:1-7); blinded the Aramean army (6:28-23); prophesied the end of a famine (7:1,16); and finally, a dead man was brought back to life after the corpse touched Elisha’s bones (13:20-21) (see V. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books, Baker Academic, 444-445).

Three of Elisha’s miracles parallel Jesus’ miracles: Elisha’s cleansing of Naaman’s leprosy and Jesus’ cleansing of the ten lepers; Elisha’s feeding a large multitude with just twenty barley loaves and fresh ears of grain and Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves in the Gospels…; and Elisha’s resuscitation of the son of a woman from Sunem with Jesus’ resuscitation of the son of the widow of Nain, which is not far from Sunem (see V. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books, Baker Academic, 446).

Elijah and Elisha are notably different: «Elijah was a radical reformer who roamed the margins of society, living in caves and camping on mountains throughout Ahab’s reign over the northern kingdom… By contrast, Elisha was a farmer who moved into a house in the city of Samaria and walked among the common folk in the northern kingdom for the half century from Ahaziah to Jehoash». Elijah devoted his life to combating the militant paganism and persecution of the Lord by Jezebel. He proclaimed God’s sovereignty over the pagan gods and confronted the prophets of Baal. Elisha was a healer who cared for ordinary people, but also advised the king on military strategy. He reflects the Lord’s compassion for the poor and the needy (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 197-199).

Elijah and Elisha both preach and perform miraculous healings. In this way they foreshadow Jesus as the Messiah who brings the Kingdom of God in word and deed. During Jesus’ ministry, many people thought of Jesus as a new Elijah (Mark 6:15; 8:28). However, Matthew and Mark are careful to identity John the Baptist as the new Elijah (see M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 199-200).

In the Gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to look beyond the external fulfillment of religious practices. We shouldn’t give alms, pray and fast in order to be seen by others. God sees our heart and he knows when we make sacrifices. He knows when we are listening to him and speaking to him in prayer.

As we read about the history of Israel and the message of the prophets, we will see how God is active in human history and guides it to its fullness in Jesus Christ. Just as he loved his people and care for them, so also God loves us and cares for us. We place our hope in the Lord and not in other men. This hope truly comforts us. God is not far off; he is near and, as the Alleluia verse says, desires to dwell in us: «Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him». We are repaid for our good deeds, not with things that will pass away, but with the reward of the children of God: the inheritance of eternal, divine life.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Jason Mitchell

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation