Second Sunday after Pentecost
[cf. 1 Kings
18:20-39 and Luke 7:1-10]
Elijah was a
prophet in very difficult times. He performed amazing signs and wonders yet was
prone to fear and depression (crying out for death!). The pagan queen Jezebel had exterminated many of
Israel's prophets. Elijah stands alone, facing 450 prophets of Ba’al, and
boldly asks: "How long will you go on limping between two opinions?" [will you choose YHWH God or Ba'al?]
The Hebrew word
for limp is pasak and it occurs seven times total in the Bible. It
occurs twice in today's reading, once to describe the indecision and infidelity
of the Israelites, the second time (to mockingly) describe the prophets of
Ba'al. (perhaps to contrast: “If one does not walk with God, one will limp with Ba'al.”)
first three times that the word pasak is in the Bible (Exodus 12 in verses 13, 23, &
27) it is translated as "Passover." The final time it appears is in Isaiah 31:5 it has a similar meaning,
God passes over and saves His people. Over half the time it is a salvation word! In ancient Jewish Biblical interpretation
one model of scripture study is to look for the same Hebrew word in different passages and bring together the disparate readings to interact. This connection of
'limping' with pagan gods versus YHWH's 'pass-over' salvation is a revelation of God to
hear and contemplate a deeper reality in the text. Are we embracing
the pass-over salvation of God? Do we "limp" in uncertainty with
other alternatives to God? Is our faith transforming our life into a prophetic ministry?
To stand alone is
intimidating, yet strangely empowering. When you say "I am the only one
left" you know that your only hope is God. Elijah--a struggling human like us--is strong here because He turns to God in faith; and God did not fail.
The fire from heaven consumes everything! Elijah stands to witness to God’s
holy Name in absolute trust; so must we. We are all called to stand for God, no
limping, only faith! You yourself are called to such faith. As you stand alone (and with others) in this hostile world, you may be
a disheartened, fearful prophet; yet if you turn to the Father in trust and call others to faithfulness, God will sustain you. Those
times when you think, "no I can't," the Holy Spirit is saying “I can in you!” So trust the Holy Three God and be faithful!
In our Gospel
today, however, it is the pagan who has faith in Jesus. The Roman Centurian sees the world as
structured and believes in authority. (we know that classic military personality!) He sees authority in Jesus. He sees
himself as sinful and unworthy. He confesses this unworthiness and professes
his faith. He trusts Jesus can do it and will do it.
Like him, we are
unworthy sinners, but are we also convinced that Jesus can do all things? It is
good to know you are unworthy to have Jesus come to your home. However, don’t simply
focus on yourself, turn to Jesus. There is no other name given for salvation. He
has the power and authority and your faith opens you to receive it and share it. Jesus came to save sinners, open to that salvation!
We need to stop
limping and trust the Holy Three.
We need to stop
limping and confess our Father is the God of Passover Salvation
We need to stop
limping and ask Jesus to bring salvation.
We need to stop limping and let the Spirit be our strength
...and when you feel unworthy, remember you are unworthy. Everyone is unworthy. Jesus comes to
us, not because we are worthy, but because He loves us. He lives in us, our body and soul, in the Word and eucharist! We are the Temple of God and earthen vessels filled with the Holy Spirit...
So stop limping. Believe.
Trust. Receive Him. Give.