Thursday, August 4, 2011

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 7, 2011 (Cycle A)

To understand Elijah’s journey and why he just wanted to die, one must read the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading is taken. Elijah is being chased for good reasons by Jezebel and Ahab who have killed all the other prophets of Israel. Elijah in his turn has proven the prophets of Baal, a god of fertility, no god at all. That little piece of action you must read and enjoy in chapter eighteen (see 1 Kings 18). He has mocked their god and then slaughters all one hundred and fifty false prophets. They played for keeps in those days! Elijah has slain the prophets of Baal, and Jezebel has threatened his life in revenge. He retreats to Mount Horeb to commune with God, as Moses had done before him (there are distinct parallels in the narrative—the forty days and the lodging in the cave).

So Elijah is on the run, making for the mountain of the covenant
. We see him exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. An angel wakes him and urges him to eat and drink; he does this twice. 
 Elijah then gets up and journeys for forty days and forty nights before arriving at Horeb.

What we read today is the deep listening which Elijah experienced while resting and hiding in a cave.
This passage has obviously been chosen to match the gospel story of the appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the lake. In each story an encounter with God/Christ takes place after the stilling of a storm.
R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah has been a great shock to Paul, and he uses very strong language in praying for their salvation (Romans 9:3).
In his attitude toward his fellow Jews, Paul strikes a mean between two diametrically opposite attitudes that have characterized Christian thought at different periods—anti-Semitism and a complete “ecumenical” acceptance of Judaism as a valid religion and an abandonment of any hope for their conversion to faith in Jesus Christ.

Both attitudes are seemingly a betrayal of the gospel as Paul understands it. His attitude is in continuity with both Moses (Exodus 32:32) and Elijah (see the sequel to the first reading in 1 Kings 19:14-18).
•  Jesus calms the seas. 
•  Jesus walks on water and then Peter walks on water towards Jesus. Peter loses faith. Jesus rescues him.
Both stories also emphasize that the disciples wavered in their loyalty to God. “Why are you afraid, you of little faith ?” (Matthew 8:26). “You [Peter] of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). The biblical term “faith” is best rendered “loyalty.”

The sea as a good symbol of the present world, and the apostle Peter is a symbol of the one and only Church. For Peter, who ranked first among the apostles and was always the most ready to declare his love for Christ, often acted as spokesman for them all.

Today’s gospel asks scientifically oriented and technologically proficient Americans where human beings ought to place their faith or loyalty: in themselves or in God?

Edith Barnecut, O.S.B., ed.
Larry Gillick, S. J 
Reginald H. Fuller 

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