[Elijah], you are destined, it is written, at the appointed time…
to turn back the hearts of parents toward their children…
Sirach 48: 10
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, announcing the birth of John the Baptist, he used these words, first written about Elijah, to describe the mission of the Precursor of the Lord.
What strikes me is that the missions of Elijah and John are all about the conversion of parents, not of the children. One could interpret the angel’s statement that John will turn “the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous” as a reference to disobedient children, but I don’t think that is what the text means.
Why, then, do parents need to turn their hearts to their children?
We have so many expectations for the next generation, so many hopes that they will fulfill what we haven’t.
But are we open to the ways that God may call the young, their ways of trying to live up to who they are and who they are called to be?
Is the generation gap due not to the rebelliousness of the young but the conformity and traditions-bound convictions of the old?
I have seen this in the rural parish where I help here in Honduras. Some of those who have been serving in the church don’t always welcome the young who want to be involved – especially in positions of leadership.
The small but vocal opposition to the reforms of Pope Francis and his strong words about the economy are another sign of that adherence to traditions. (Note the plural “traditions.” I don’t know who said it but Tradition is the living faith of the dead and traditions are often the dead faith of the living.)
Today’s saint, John of the Cross, endured persecution, jailing, and more as he sought to reform the Carmelites in 16th century Spain, together with St. Teresa of Avila.
The hearts of many of the leaders of his order, an order that lays claim to the inheritance of Elijah, were turned against him. Not only did the “Observants” imprison and beat him but he suffered marginalization in his final days at the hands of his own reformed brothers.
But in all this, he sought God.
So today we might ask God to open our hearts to the young and to those who challenge us to new ways of thinking and living, new ways of being faithful to the Gospels.
It might not be easy, but God will accompany us – as John of the Cross recognized the presence of Christ even in the dark night.