Jesus vs. Elijah
User's Guide to Sunday, June 30
BY Tom and April Hoopes
June 30-July 13, 2013 Issue | Posted 6/30/13 at 8:38 AM
Sunday June 30 is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
On July 1, the Church celebrates Blessed Junipero Serra, the philosophy professor who longed to be a missionary.
After 20 years of teaching in Spain, Father Serra responded to a call for missionary volunteers in the New World. His flock of American Indians in the wilds of California was a far cry from his university students. “All my life I have wanted to be a missionary,” he said. “I have wanted to carry the Gospel message to those who have never heard of God and the Kingdom he has prepared for them.” He left a chain of missions behind him.
On July 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.
He is often called “Doubting Thomas,” but devotees of him (and namesakes, such as Tom) know better. The Gospels say that the other apostles doubted the Resurrection, too, so they could all be called the “doubting apostles.” The difference with St. Thomas was that he was honest about his doubts and spoke to others about how to resolve them. As a result, he has the strongest recorded affirmation of Christ’s divinity in the Gospels, calling him: “My Lord and my God.”
1 Kings 19:16-21; Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ mission — and contrasts Jesus with the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha.
Two incidents in the Gospel refer back to the prophets’ lives.
First, when the Samaritans reject Jesus as a man of God, James and John say, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” This is exactly what Elijah did (in 2 Kings 9:1-14) when he was rejected as a man of God. But Jesus dismisses the idea and spares the town.
Next, Jesus deals with would-be disciples he meets. One asks him to be allowed to bury his father before joining him. Another wants to say farewell to those at home.
From our first reading, we know how Elijah dealt with Elisha in the same circumstance: He allowed him to go home. But Jesus doesn’t allow it. “Let the dead bury the dead,” he says. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
It seems that Elijah is tough on his enemies and easy on his friends, and Jesus is easy on his enemies and tough on his friends.
But why? The whole story of Scripture is the story of a violent people turning against God in startling, radical ways — from the murder of Abel by Cain, to the wickedness in Noah’s time and on and on.
God loves his people and longs to turn them back to him and to their own happiness. In the Old Testament, God uses his Law and his power to reveal who he is and set them straight. In the New Testament, Jesus uses mercy for the same end.
This is because the relationship between God and his people is utterly changed. When God worked and spoke through prophets and the Law, he spoke to the violent through violence.
After the Incarnation, God has entered humanity and no longer has to teach through others. He teaches them himself.
God is the same God; but now he is walking among his violent, wicked people. He is one of us. He can now show us the folly of violence by absorbing our blows directly.
In one sense, our violent ways are still corrected by violence: Suffering enters every life, and death still comes to each of us as suddenly as “fire from heaven.” God prunes his people.
But, as Jesus puts it, we are now in the Kingdom of God. We are not pruned simply by violence, but by being united with him in his Kingdom — the Church — through the cross and its fruits, the sacraments, which give us his life.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
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