Elijah & Peter

Elijah is a most important figure in the Jewish religion. One Jewish writer described him as: The most beloved prophet of all; with whom the future redemption of Israel through Messiah is closely linked; who frequently comes down to earth to help Jews in distress or reveal some secrets of the divine Torah to our great scholars; who is present at the covenant with G-d entered into by the Jewish child at the age of eight days; who visits us at the 'Seder' - this is our prophet Elijah!

In our first reading from 1 Kings we hear how Elijah had had enough. He was a tired old man, and he was on the run. He had incurred the wrath of Queen Jezebel by killing her prophets of the god Baal and she had sworn revenge on him, and within 24 hours he would be dead.  

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life, he sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he could die. But God sent an angel to him to provide him with sustenance. He must not give up. Elijah knew he was the only one of God’s prophets still surviving, all the others had perished at the hands of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He had to remain faithful.

It is a challenge for any Christian to remain faithful in the face of adversity. But it is down to the sacrifice of the martyrs that the church has survived. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. 

We have seen in the news this week, the latest round of persecution in Iraq, Christian communities almost as old as Christianity itself forced the leave their homes. The centuries –old co-existence shattered by a fundamentalism that corrupts its own religion.

We should set our own problems within the perspective of those of others. What can it be like to face the loss of your home, your community, your livelihood and even members of your family. When we feel weighed  down by our own problems let us also ponder the rubble of Gaza.

Elijah was strengthened to endure. The knowledge of the presence of God enabled him to persevere, and to know that better times would come to Israel. We too must endure in our faith, and in carrying the cross of life. We must keep on.

Elijah was an old war-horse, but St Peter had all the impetuosity of a recent convert. He was eager to follow Jesus, he’d do anything to be close to him. If you tell me to walk on water, I’ll do it, he said to Jesus. But Peter’s faith was insubstantial. We see it later when accused of being a follower of Jesus and he denied that he even knew him. His faith failed him.

Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves and he was frightened. He only saw the dangers and the problem and he took his eyes off the solution.

So it is with us, when we are so beset by problems that we take our sight off Jesus. It is very sad, when people stop attending Mass because of problems in their lives. That is the very time when we most need to be here, to keep our eyes focused on Jesus to us through our troubles. People may say, I was in trouble and I prayed and God was not there for me. But perhaps we are looking for God to act with grand gestures. Are we looking for God in the earthquake, wind and fire, and ignoring the still small voice of calm?

Elijah experienced the knowledge of the presence of God in the faintest sound, like the rustle of a breeze in the leaves of a tree, a whisper. What space, what silence do we give to enable that faint sound of God to be heard in our souls? Can we hear the voice of Jesus from the gospels giving courage and assurance. ‘Do not be afraid, have faith I am here.’

St Teresa of Avila enjoyed a close relationship with God. She knew much hardship and suffered much opposition in her efforts to reform the Carmelite order. On one particularly bad day she remarked that life is like a night in a bad hotel. She also railed at God, saying to him, ‘if this is how you treat your friends it is no wonder you have so many enemies.’ Hers was an honest and open relationship with God, one with an easy intimacy. But there was also an assurance to it. She carried on a book mark in her prayer book a prayer that speaks of the constancy and the assurance that faith in God brings.

Let nothing trouble you.

Let nothing frighten you.

All things pass.

God does not change.

Patience gains all things

Whoever has God, lacks nothing.

God alone is enough