Prophetic Succession

Today we are regaled by a tale of prophetic succession that has no little significance for us, we too are anointed as prophets from the moment of our baptism. Elijah invites his protégé Elisha to ask him for a parting gift just before his departure and Elisha boldly asks for a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. In witnessing Elijah taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, borne aloft in a flaming chariot and flaming horses, Elisha’s wish is granted, and he goes on to do mighty signs and wonders in his own right. Let us look at these great prophets of yore and glean a bountiful harvest for our own prophetic store.

The Lord is God

A key moment in Elijah’s life was the showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah first addresses his kinsmen with these stirring words.

How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him (1 Kings 18:21).

His words were met with indifference. So, Elijah issued a challenge. Each were to prepare the sacrifice, but not light a fire but call down fire, whoever succeeded meant their Lord was the true God. The 450 strong band of prophets went first. And although they called upon Baal from morning to noon, no one answered, and no one was listening.

Then Elijah called the people to him, rebuilt the altar and erected stones for the twelve tribes of Israel, placed the holocaust on the altar and dug a trench around the altar. Thrice, he instructed the people to pour jars of water over the sacrifice and the wood, until the trench was filled to the brim. Then Elijah prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel and his prayer was answered. The Lord sent fire that consumed the holocaust, wood, stones and lapped up the water in the trench. At this, the people fell prostrate and cried out:

The Lord is God! The Lord is God (1 Kings 18:39).

A Tiny Whispering Sound

Elijah was a prophet on the run. Having slain the 450 prophets of Baal, his life was in jeopardy, for none less than the bloodthirsty Queen Jezebel sought his murder, having already wiped-out hundreds of prophets serving Yahweh. The Lord led the fleeing prophet to the mountain of Horeb. And the Lord presented him with this most foundational of posers: Why are you here? Something we would do well to ask ourselves or better yet, we would do well to ask the Lord. Why indeed am I here? Elijah pours out his heart and his fears. Then Elijah witnesses a mighty wind, a powerful earthquake and fire. Yet, the Lord was not in any of these. After this came a tiny, whispering sound. And Elijah hid his face.

Elijah and Elisha: lessons in prophetic succession and faithfulness

The various phenomena of wind, storms, earthquake, and fire were heralds of God but not the presence itself. The barely discernible whisper spoke volumes about the way God acts in our own life. What’s noteworthy about Elijah’s encounter with God is that one of the most famous prophets of yesteryear had a similar encounter on this very mountain. For none other than Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb. To one, the covenant was given, to the other, the mission to re-establish the same.

The Law and the Prophets

At the Transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah are seen conversing with Jesus, representing the Law and Prophets. Elijah commands only a few pages in 1 and 2 Kings, yet his importance is so great that both John the Baptist and Our Blessed Lord are compared to him. Great as he was, his life was filled with complications that afflict the human condition: doubt, fear, hunger, and loneliness. Yet he perfectly fulfilled God’s demands, giving staunch witness to the One, True Faith and forming Elisha as his successor.

We too are called to do the same. The conditions in ancient Israel and the ones we face are quite similar. The forces of evil appear to have the upper hand. Yet God looks to his prophets to keep the flame of faith alive, verily all we need to do with our brief lifespan is to remain faithful against near insurmountable odds, practice surrender and obedience to the Lord’s commandments and covenants and raise up others to do the same and to succeed us. To do this, we need to saturate our lives with prayer and especially nourish ourselves with the Eucharist and the Divine Word. We would do well to follow Elijah’s example. Seek first the whispers of the Lord and all the rest will fall in line.

[Readings Wednesday Week 11 Ordinary Time B: 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18]

D'Souza Family

The D’Souza family who go by the moniker, Unity Flame, consists of Patrick and Juliet and their three daughters, Naomi, Nicole, and Nadine. Patrick and Juliet spent their formative years in India and have been married 26 years. Being a missionary is at the heart of their family. Patrick and Juliet are members of the Regnum Christi movement, have homeschooled their children, and have been active members of their parish church and small Catholic community. Their daughters have been active participants as in the Challenge girls clubs, which emphasize formation, friendship with Christ, and virtue-driven leadership programs. Naomi and Nadine have each spent a “gap” year between high school and college as missionaries in the Philippines and Atlanta. Contact: [email protected]

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