St. Elijah is an important Feast in Carmel, July 20th – a Prophet used by God to steer people clear of false gods. How we need this Prophet today!
Elijah stood up boldly for God in a time when idolatry had swept his land. In fact, his name means "My God is Yah(weh)."
The false god Elijah opposed was Baal, the favorite deity of Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel. To please Jezebel, Ahab had altars erected to Baal, and the queen murdered God's prophets.
Elijah appeared before King Ahab to announce God's curse: "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." (1 Kings 17:1)
Then Elijah fled to the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan River, where ravens brought him bread and meat. When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to live with a widow in Zarephath. God performed another miracle there, blessing the woman's oil and flour so it did not run out. Unexpectedly, the widow's son died. Elijah stretched himself on the boy's body three times, and God restored the child's life.
Confident of the power of God, Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the false god Asherah to a showdown on Mount Carmel for it to once again rain. The idolaters sacrificed a bull and cried out to Baal from morning until nightfall, even slashing their skin until blood flowed, but nothing happened. Elijah then rebuilt the altar of the Lord, sacrificing a bull there.
He put the burnt offering on it, along with wood. He had a servant douse the sacrifice and wood with four jars of water, three times, until all was thoroughly soaked.
Elijah called on the Lord, and God's fire fell from heaven, consuming the offering, the wood, the altar, the water, and even the dust around it.
The people fell on their faces, shouting, "The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God." (1 Kings 18:39, ) Elijah ordered the people to slay the 850 false prophets.
Elijah prayed, and rain fell on Israel. Jezebel was furious at the loss of her prophets, however, and swore to kill Elijah. This brought on a dark night for him despite all of this success. When Queen Jezebel sent her men to hunt him down for slaughtering most of her false prophets, at the showdown in Mount Carmel, Elijah went into hiding and despair and begged God to take his life (1 King 19:1-4). Instead, the prophet slept, and an angel brought him food. Strengthened, Elijah went 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb, where God appeared to him in a whisper.
Elijah was both a man of prayer and action. He lived in Mount Carmel to savor the delights of deep contemplation and left it only when sent by God to do His bidding. He was a man of no compromise, a man who spoke the truth when it wasn’t popular, a man who allowed himself to be guided by his zeal for the Lord God of Hosts. He was also a man of deep compassion and sensitivities.
God ordered Elijah to anoint his successor, Elisha, whom he found plowing with 12 yoke of oxen. Elisha killed the animals for a sacrifice and followed his master. Elijah went on to prophesy the deaths of Ahab, King Ahaziah, and Jezebel.
Like Enoch, Elijah did not die. God sent chariots and horses of fire and took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, while Elisha stood watching. (2Kings 2: 9-12),
The story of Elijah is always an inspiring one. He is very relevant to us in our modern age. The basic needs of the human heart never really change. The ways of expressing these needs may vary because of culture and time, but the realities of thirst for the supernatural, search for truth, dissatisfaction with the false gods of power, wealth, ambitions and prestige, longing for a deeper respect for human life, the need to call on a power greater than our own, experiences of fear and despair when faced with forces greater than our own, remain the same. Faced as we are in this modern era with materialism, secularism and intellectual atheism, we most often straddle important issues of our day and adopt a “politically correct” and overly simplistic approach to life’s most important questions.
Elijah did not find solutions to his problems by himself but always had recourse to God through prayer. He allowed himself to be filled and guided by God in moments when he sought Him in prayer. He did not weigh the consequences of his actions in the sense of acting only when there was assured victory. He was totally abandoned, docile and trusting that God would finish what he had begun. Even in his dark night of spirit he was docile and humble. He was not afraid to lend a voice to his despair and to acknowledge the fact that he was afraid and inadequate. He desired death because the fight became wearisome. He felt abandoned thinking he was the only one left among the followers of Yahweh. He was ready to give up. Yet, it was through this fear that true courage was born. It was through this emptiness that the cup was filled. It was in this nothingness of man that God was manifested as God.
As a Carmelite, we pray that the spirit of our holy father Saint Elijah be given to us. His double spirit of prayer and action is the hallmark of true Carmelite spirituality. In our age of intellectual rationalizations, the voice of this great prophet is once again heard: How long will we straddle the issue? If we believe in God then we must follow him unreservedly, with docility and courage, and trust. What does this mean? It means not counting the cost, not acting only because of assured success, not worrying too much about the good opinions of others. We accept the fact that we will never understand everything that happens to us despite our greatest and honest efforts. We must trust in God – He alone matters.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel pray for us!
Bernadette Porter is a Traditional Catholic, a wife of 41 years with 6 adult home-schooled children and 5 grandchildren. A sincere devotion to Mary, the Mother of God leads me to want to share "The Church's best kept secret" - Mary!