Reconciling parents and children – Elijah

Elijah, fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6)

Elijah, fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6)

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.

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One response to “Reconciling parents and children – Elijah

  1. “It is a tender image. Recalling the sometimes difficult relations of fathers and sons…” As I read this line, my thoughts drifted to my relationship with my own father and the resentment I hold in my heart toward him. Interestingly, the resentment isn’t about his abandoning my family when I was a kid but it’s about my unmet expectations of a relationship I thought we could have had after reconnecting as adults.

    My father has been dead for over 15 years yet a small part of me holds onto this resentment. I often feel my dad’s spirit, and at times like now when I am conscious of my lingering resentment, I hear his request for forgiveness for his shortcomings; an invitation not unlike the invitation God extends to be one with Him.

    John writes, in part, “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 my case, the “giving up” and “letting be killed” is the resentment. I find myself asking, if Jesus could give himself up, let himself be killed, can’t I let go of just a small part of myself…my resentment? And if not, what keeps me from doing so? So, my prayer is for the courage of Jesus to do so.

    Reflecting on the random and senseless killing of the 20 elementary school students in Connecticut on Friday, reminds me of the experience of random and senseless death experienced by my friends Steve and Lynnea. Seven years ago, their mother and my good friend, Laura, was killed on her way to work. A young guy in an SUV not paying attention ran a red light broad siding Laura’s car and killing her instantly. Steve and Lynnea felt anger, sadness, loss of a part of themselves and asked how God could have let this happen. Amidst their grief and anger, they asked for the opportunity to meet with the young man. When their request was granted, they didn’t lash out at the young man in anger but instead shared with him what the irreplaceable loss of a wife and mother met to them, told him they forgave him and asked that the court order he undergo the counseling he would need to deal with an error in judgment that he would have to live with for the rest of his life.

    “…let’s remember that we are all called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5; 17-20)…”

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