1 Kgs 19:19-21; Ps 16:1-10; Mt 5:33-37?
“You will not abandon my soul to the nether world.”? ??
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit and in the lectio divina of the early church the words of the Psalmist gives way to the voice of the Son of David, Jesus the Christ. In the words of today’s psalm we can hear the Lord Jesus speak with total abandonment to the will of his Father. Baptism makes these words our own. We, too, can pray with complete and trusting abandonment. We ask the Father to keep us, hold us, and preserve us, in the midst of all afflictions. We find that the LORD is our refuge, our home, and our protection; we can say with utter confidence, “My Lord are you.” Indeed the LORD is our allotted portion and our cup; he holds fast our lot. God is too big for our tiny hearts so he reforms us like the potter reshapes the clay on his wheel. We bless his holy Name; we call him counselor. Even in the dark night of our purification, we hear from deep within the LORD exhorting us. When we set the LORD ever before our eyes of faith, we recognize that he is at our right hand and we are not disturbed. We have no fear. Our hearts rejoice; our souls are glad, and even our bodies rest in safety. We are confident because the LORD will not abandon us to the nether world. Because our true identity is hidden with Christ in God we know that he will not suffer his faithful one to undergo corruption. Neither in this world nor in eternity will we rot away to nothingness. Indeed, our flesh will return to the dust from which it came, but we will survive in spirit and in truth. Ultimately, we will rise with Christ in the glory of the resurrection. We know our Redeemer lives, and we shall see him face to face. This is the kind of abandonment that brought Elisha, son of Shaphat, to become a son of the Prophet Elijah. The Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ becomes the word we speak, and his yes to the Father’s will becomes our yes ever renewed and strengthened in the Eucharist.
In obedience to the tiny whispering sound, in abandonment to the intimate voice of God, Elijah set out to find the son of Shaphat. He does not speak in a commanding and powerful voice to Elisha the farmer. Rather, he speaks not a word; he simply threw his cloak over the one the LORD had chosen. He had learned from his close encounter with the Word of God that sometimes gestures speak louder than words. Elisha was plowing his father’s fields with twelve yoke of oxen. Any farmer who used twenty-four oxen to plow the earth was no poor farmer. His father, Shaphat, was a man of means. His inheritance was great, and Elisha was well attached to his father and mother. He came from a healthy family, and he wanted to bid his parents farewell. The Prophet finally speaks to the startled son of Shaphat saying; “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha understands the Prophet. Elisha hears the Word of God in words of Elijah. His choice is clear either he stays on the farm to inherit his father’s wealth, or he takes up the Prophet’s cloak. This is the choice of anyone who hears the Word of God. How do we respond to the claim of God upon our lives? Elisha’s choice is made definitively. He sacrifices his future on the farm to live under the mantle of the Prophet. His abandonment is complete even the wooden plow is fuel for his sacrifice. Now, he belongs to God alone. Now, he can follow the Prophet and become the New Prophet. We, too, are summoned to total abandonment. The New Elijah, Jesus Christ, has placed the baptismal garment upon us; now our freedom is engaged. How will we respond?
In this chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the New Moses is still teaching on the mount of the beatitudes. The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophets of old; he is the Word of God, made flesh, that was preached by all who came before him in the power and spirit of Elijah. To his disciples, to those who would carry that word into the future, the Lord Jesus teaches what no prophet had said before. Quoting from the revealed Word of God the Lord Jesus makes new and seemingly impossible demands upon all who would be his disciples. The Lord reminds his listeners that their ancestors commanded them not to take a false oath, but to be faithful to their vows. A vow or an oath was a commitment reinforced by calling upon the power of God’s Name. Anyone who called God to witness to the truth was expected to be speaking the truth. If he was not speaking truth, the LORD was called to do “thus and so” to the oath maker. He was making a covenant, and unfaithfulness had dire consequences. The Lord Jesus teaches that swearing by heaven, or earth, or Jerusalem is not in our power because these belong to God and not to us. We cannot use what does not belong to us to guarantee our honesty. Even our own head and every hair upon it belongs not to us but to God. So we cannot swear by our head. Rather, we are to speak from the truth of who we are. We are to give our yes to the Lord’s will and our no to the Evil One. Such honesty alone hastens the coming of the Kingdom of God. Such honesty is impossible without total abandonment to the LORD. Jesus the Christ is the definitive “yes” of the Father and in him we can speak with absolute honesty in all our relationships. Only this kind of honesty will create trust in the human family, among the sons and daughters of the Father.