1Kgs 18:20-39; Ps 16:1b,2,4,5,8,11; Mt 5:17-19
Life is full of suffering, and then you die. This is true, but it’s not the whole truth. We do have many moments of suffering, but we also have many moments of rejoicing. Life is full of both sadness and joy. The wisdom of King David in our responsorial psalm invites us to find in the LORD God our safety and our hope. As the man after God’s own heart discovered in his own life, the only one who keeps us and gives us hope is the LORD. With King David we say to the LORD, our refuge, “My LORD are you.” The pursuit of any other god leaves us empty. It multiplies our sorrows. Unless we refuse to offer these false and empty idols blood libations, unless we refuse to take their names upon our lips in praise, we multiply our sorrows. The blood libations demanded by the gods are those of our own children, the most innocent among us. The praise demanded by the gods arises out of the reveling enjoyed in temple prostitution of our own children, the most innocent among us, our own sons and daughters. Only in the LORD can we find our allotted portion and cup; it is the LORD who holds us fast. Only when we set the LORD ever in our sight can we find him at our right hand; we shall not be disturbed. Not only does the LORD fill our life with his wisdom and guidance, the LORD leads us to the fullness of joys in his presence, the delights at his right hand forever. This is the painful and bloody summons Elijah makes on Mount Carmel, and all the people cry out, “The LORD is God!” It is this path of life that the Lord Jesus summons us to in today’s gospel. In our liturgy we renew our commitment to the LORD who holds us fast and stands ever at our right hand.
The only thing the children of Israel could agree on was that the God who answers with fire is God. The only remaining prophet of the LORD is Elijah, and he willingly takes on all four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. He asks the children of Israel for two young bulls. He asks the children to make a sacrifice, to bring forth a gift. This gift was to symbolize their willingness to be consumed by the fire of God. Indeed, it was the flame from above which was to reveal the only one who can consume us and still we live. The Prophet Elijah has fun taunting the prophets of Baal. He is full of sarcasm when he invites the false prophets to cry louder, “for he is a god and may be meditating.” That’s all it takes to drive these prophets into a bloody frenzy. When the only response, to calling louder and slashing themselves as was their custom, was silence, Elijah summoned the children of Israel: “come here to me.” Then the liturgy began with a reminder, in the twelve stones for the altar, of the call of God that made them one nation. After the remembering of their origins the prophet-priest arranged the wood and cut up the young bull. Then Elijah commanded the altar and sacrifice to be drenched with water three times over. After this rhetorical move, the Prophet of the LORD prayed simply, “answer me that this people may be brought back to their senses.” The LORD came down in fire and consumed the symbol of the people and their eyes were opened and their hearts cried out louder than the false prophets had cried out to their false god, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!” Now the children of Israel were one in heart and voice. This is the kind of unity we profess with every “amen” we proclaim at every liturgy.
It is the same Holy Spirit, that abounds in the life and ministry of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, that also abides in our hearts. In his Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus makes it clear that he is no enemy of the law; he is not opposed to the tradition of guidance from the First Moses. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.” The phrase, “the law and the prophets,” refers to the entire Old Testament. As Jesus continues to explain, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” The New Moses does not reject the First Moses. This fulfillment that the Lord Jesus proclaims is from His heart and in the Spirit. He does not oppose the Father’s will even in the slightest manner, and he teaches others to be this obedient. Christ’s obedience is out of love not out of fear. From all eternity our Elder Brother, the Eternal Son, has gazed upon the Father’s Face and delighted to do his will, without hesitation. Only because we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, which was upon the Son from the eternal moment of his being eternally begotten of the Father. Only because of our Spirit-filled life in Christ can we obey the greatest and least of the commands of Our Father. Without the obedience of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit we could only despair in all our efforts to be holy. Here at the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in the New Covenant, in Christ’s Body and Blood, do we have the greatest desire to obey and even the least desire to obey Our Father.