1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
Today’s Liturgy of the Word is a hymn to God’s majesty and power. Elijah doesn’t hide his face when the wind, earthquake and fire pass by. These things are nothing in comparison to the power of God’s presence, manifested in a gentle, tiny whispering sound that penetrates deep into the heart of man. In the Gospel, the wind, the waves and the storm can do no harm to Jesus, the Son of God, who walks on the waters.
The story of Elijah, hidden in a cave on Mount Horeb, recalls the story of Moses, hidden in the cleft of the rock on Mount Sinai. It is possible that Horeb and Sinai were the same mountain. Moses asks to see God’s glory and God grants him a glimpse of the glory of his back. As God passes by he proclaims his name: “I Am Who Am. I Am Who Am, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger; and abounding in mercy and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6).
When Elijah encounters God, he is fleeing the wrath of Jezebel. He had just triumphed over the 450 prophets of Baal and saw the end of the drought coming on the horizon. When Jezebel heard about all that Elijah had done, she begins to pursue him in order to kill him. Elijah is brought to the point of despair and asks God to take his life. Instead, God gives him food and water and strengthens him for a forty day journey to Mount Horeb, the Mountain of the Lord.
The voice of the Lord asks him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He responds that Israel has forsaken the covenant (made with the Lord on that very mountain) and that he is the only one left who keeps the covenant. God tells him that there are still seven thousand in Israel who do not worship Baal. As well, God gives him instructions that will bring about punishment on Israel and on who to appoint as his successor as prophet to Israel.
On the mountain, Elijah learns like Moses that the Lord is faithful and merciful, slow to anger. God forgives transgression and sin, but will not clear the guilty. The Lord forgives those who approach him in humility and love; but those who refuse to approach God and choose to remain in their pride and sin, bring condemnation upon themselves.
In the Gospel, we see another manifestation of God’s power and a revelation of who Jesus is. When the Apostles hear Jesus’ voice, they no longer think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus says: “It is I” or “I Am”. “So understood, the statement recalls the Lord’s words to Moses from the burning bush: ‘I am who I am’ (Exod 3:14). […] for those with ears to hear, Jesus’ declaration is nothing less than a claim to divinity using the familiar words of scriptural revelation” (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 192). In the end, Peter and the other apostles in the boat are brought to faith in Jesus’ divinity: “Truly, you are the Son of God”.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans recalls the great things that God has done through his people Israel. He highlights seven of them: adoption, glory, covenants, the giving of the law, worship, promises, and the patriarchs. God chose Israel to be his people and called them to be a kingdom of priests. God’s glory descended upon Mount Sinai, upon the meeting tent and filled Solomon’s Temple. God made covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. He gave them the law that taught them love for God and for neighbor. He taught them how to worship him with psalms of praise, thanksgiving, sacrificial offerings and penitential rites. He fulfilled his promises to Abraham and to David. He is the God of the living, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What is more, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is descendant, according to the flesh, of the Patriarchs and David.
God continues to do great things for us, his people, and continues to manifest his name to us. Through Baptism, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. We behold his glory in Jesus Christ and will behold his glory in heaven. He gave us the New Covenant and the New Law through Jesus Christ. We now worship him in Spirit and in Truth. We are heirs to the promise. We are descendants of Abraham through faith.
Today, we, like Elijah and the Apostles, hear God’s voice and his Word over the winds and waves of our lives. It is a powerful voice that cuts to the heart: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). There, in our hearts, our inner sanctuary, we welcome God and ask that he reign more fully in us.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].