Elijah is my favorite Jewish prophet.
Elijah had fire in his belly. He was not afraid to confront the king, his wife, and the court priests of Baal.
I have problems with his massacre of the priests of Baal but his encounter with God on Mount Horeb perhaps helped redeem him from his bloodthirsty killing. There he finds God not in fire, thunder, or earthquake, but in a light breath, a gentle breeze. (1 Kings 17: 11-13)
Perhaps that reminded him of how he had raised the son of the widow of Zarephath to life by what looks like a form of artificial respiration – using the power of breath.
But what struck me this morning was the phrase from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48: 10: Elijah was destined “to turn back the hearts of fathers to their sons.”
It is a tender image. Recalling the sometimes difficult relations of fathers and sons, Elijah and John the Baptist (Luke 1: 17) have been given this calling. The Septuagint uses the word ἐπιστρέφω, which means turning back, the Latin Vulgate uses the word conciliare – to unite, to conciliate.
Our call – like John the Baptist’s and Elijah’s – is to help bring about the reconciliation that God desires, the reconciliation that is made real in Jesus, God become human, to effect reconciliation not through killing, but by giving himself up, letting himself be killed.
In light of the killings yesterday, let’s remember that we are all called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5; 17-20), a ministry which Christ has accomplished but which we are called to make real amidst the pain and suffering of our world.