In today’s reading from the First Book of Kings, we find Elijah cowering in fear as he runs away from Jezebel, wife of King Ahab. When he slew all the priests of the pagan god Baal, she swore that she would see the day when dogs licked up his blood from the ground. Elijah took refuge in a cave on Mt. Horeb.
Mt. Horeb figures as the site of the covenant in the Book of Deuteronomy. This leads some scholars to believe that Mt. Horeb and Mt. Sinai are one and the same. Be that as it may, when God initiated the covenant with the children of Israel, the mountain was wreathed in smoke, glowed with fire, and shook with earthquakes. As Elijah waits for the voice of God, he is expecting it to be in wind, earthquake and fire. However, God’s voice is heard in a whispering breeze instead.
Why do the Scriptures take note of this? Almost all theophanies in the Scriptures are accompanied by wind and earthquake and fire. Even the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem uses these natural elements to depict the presence of the Spirit.
One explanation is in the very notion of expectation. God usually is not what people expect. Jesus was not what people expected in a Messiah. In this story about Elijah’s interaction with God, God once again confounds expectations.
As Elijah pours out the sorrows of his heart, God reminds him of the mission upon which he had been set. He asks Elijah to return to that mission, to complete the task that God had given him. He is to anoint new kings for Israel and Aram. He is also to anoint his own successor who will take up his mission and his mantle when he is gone.
God has given all of us a mission as well. So often we are distracted from that mission by our own desires and needs. Today’s readings remind us that we are to be single hearted, focused only on God’s will, not our own. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember that Jesus fulfilled the will of God by giving up his life and providing us with an example of servanthood.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator