These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Ahab’s wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, “Why are you so angry that you will not eat?” He answered her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard, or, if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange.’ But he refused to let me have his vineyard.” His wife Jezebel said to him, “A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” (1 Kgs 21:5-7)
In the South we use lots of Bible names. Jezebel is one of the Bible names you almost never hear in the South. Shakespeare must have had Jezebel in mind when he created the character of Lady Macbeth.
Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1 Cor 10:16-17)
The question I always ask about this feast is why? The answer of course perhaps had to do with the state of Holy Week before the reforms of Pope Pius XII in the 1950’s. But the fact was that Holy Thursday and Good Friday were poorly attended by the faithful, if at all. These celebrations took place in the morning when most folks were working. As a consequence, Passion Sunday was invented with the reading of the Passion Narrative so that the faithful would hear the Passion of the Lord at least once during the year and the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ was added so that Holy Thursday and the institution of the Eucharist would at least be acknowledged. And of course, as the Second Vatican Council decreed, the restoration and promotion of the liturgy should lead to the “fully conscious, and active participation” of the faithful in liturgical celebrations. During our first year in seminary, I remember one of my classmates who called to me one day after a liturgy class on the Paschal Triduum to ask what in the world the professor had been talking about. He and his family attended Mass faithfully every Sunday, but he had never heard of the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil. It was news to him. Perhaps that’s why we have Corpus Christi Sunday.
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant. (1 Kgs 19:19-21)
We like to think that the great calls from the Bible have something to do with special effects, but no. Poor Elisha was simply plowing the fields when Elijah threw his cloak over him. He said goodbye to his parents and off he goes. Would that we could answer God’s call that quickly!
Saint Anthony was devoted to the Word of God. Maybe that’s why he’s always shown with the Word Made Flesh (Baby Jesus) in his arms.
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kgs 19:9,11-13)
This passage about the “tiny whispering sound” or “the still small voice” (as some translations have it) is one of the classic passages of the spiritual life. But it’s good to remember that the “tiny whispering sound” wasn’t a call to rest and enjoy the mountain view, just the opposite. The voice asks, “What are you doing here? There’s work to be done—kings and a prophet to anoint. Get going!”
Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)
It’s always good to remember that the group called “apostles” is larger than just the Twelve. In fact, it’s only the Lucan gospel that gives us the term “twelve apostles.” As we can see in Antioch the community had prophets and teachers . . . and then two apostles were sent out, Barnabas and Saul (Paul). “Apostle” means “one who is sent off.”
At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.” The LORD’s fire came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!” (1 Kgs 18:36-39)
Every generation seems to have its defining moment (for my mother’s generation it was the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941). For others it was the attacks of September 11, 2001). For my generation there were three, and all three were assassinations: President John F Kennedy (November 22, 1963), Martin Luther King (April 4, 1968), and Robert F Kennedy (June 6, 1968). In the Hebrew Scriptures Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal is one such defining moment. It is also one of the most colorful and bloody stories of the Bible. Fortunately, our lectionary omits most of the gore. The question, of course: "Whom will you serve?" And the people answer: “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 5:14-16)
The little songs we learned as children have a way of staying with us throughout our lives. They teach us valuable lessons. It’s always good to remember that our little light can make a world of difference if we just have the courage to let it shine.
♫This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine This little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!♫