After two weeks of listening to Messianic prophecies from Isaiah, our attention for today shifts to Elijah who is regarded as the most important of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. If one were to put together a collage or paint a picture of this prophet, the predominant image for this prophet is fire. The Scriptures tell us that he appeared among the children of Israel like a fire, that his words were like a furnace, that he called down fire from heaven three times, and that he disappeared from the eyes of his servant Elisha in a fiery chariot.
Elijah’s name is really a title. It simply means, “Yahweh is my God.” As he faced the priests of Baal and other idolaters in Israel, he never wavered In his mission to turn others to the worship of the God of Israel. Fire is also used in the Hebrew Scriptures as a symbol for God as in the burning bush and the fiery glow atop Mt. Sinai. So the sacred writer surrounds Elijah with images of fire to help us make the connection between Elijah and God.
John the Baptist also refers to fire when he tells those who come to him at the Jordan River that Jesus will baptize with fire.
Of course, there are even those who read this images and have come to understand that purgation will involve fire. This notion comes from the fact that metal objects were created from the raw ore mined from the earth by fire, separating the valuable minerals from the dross.
Perhaps an even more helpful fire reference is that which we have in the Sacred Heart of Jesus who is represented with a furnace of love burning in his breast.
These images are all calling us to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Nativity by putting aside all the clutter that we carry with us in our hearts so that there will be room for Jesus when he comes again. As we receive Jesus in our bodies through the Eucharist, let us continue to make room for the love that Jesus wishes to share with us in his Sacred Heart.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator