The Goal: To Love As God Loves
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a
There’s a revealing incident in Elijah’s life that precedes the one we read today. Jezebel, the Phoenician princess, maintained 450 prophets loyal to the god, Baal, as part of her court. Elijah, the prophet of Israel’s God bested these prophets in a context to see whose God was greater. After demonstrating the superior power of his God, Elijah personally murders all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel then vows to do the same to him. It’s while fleeing Jezebel’s understandable wrath that Elijah encounters God in a gentle desert breeze.
The prophet was exhausted by his labors and the frustration of seeing his efforts go unappreciated by the very Israelites he’d been championing. He was also fed up with God who wouldn’t visit the disastrous punishments on his enemies that Elijah believed appropriate. Elijah wasn’t looking for a breeze; he was looking for a hurricane.
The narrative’s point is simple: think again about expecting God-in-a-hurricane to carry off those opposing our noble efforts. We naturally think that our positions promote the good life for us all. Why wouldn’t God back us up? Why shouldn’t we threaten – even abet – a little divine fury against our opposition? Think again.
God’s appearance to the Israelite prophet as a gentle wind anticipates the Christian experience of Jesus, God’s loving justice personified. He insisted that we love those who oppose our understanding of how life should go. He accepted his own death rather than do harm to those who opposed his own work.
We who strive for the world that God promises will find our greatest power in pursuing God’s vision in God’s way – in Jesus’ way. The day must come when we accept that ultimately our success lies in seeking the welfare of those who oppose us with the same energy and consistency that we seek our own. As disconcerting as it is: in our blow-hard world God is a gentle breeze.