Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Sacred Scriptures we heard about the praises of the prophet Elijah as recounted by the prophet Sirach. In that passage we heard how the prophet Elijah had worked hard for the Lord and eventually was taken up into heaven at the end of his ministry. Then in the Gospel passage we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers on the matter of how they ought to pray and then taught them His prayer.
Let us first begin with our first reading today, in which we heard the account of the life and works of the prophet Elijah. In that account, we heard a summary of Elijah’s many achievements during his ministry and how he laboured hard for the sake of God’s people, a most thankless and tiring task, as he was persecuted, oppressed and rejected by those same people that he had been sent to minister. He had to flee many times for fear of his life during his ministry, with many people opposing him.
The Lord had worked through Elijah, as he performed many wonderful miracles, as mentioned by the prophet Sirach, as he brought fire down from heaven to burn the sacrificial offerings during the trial of faith with the priests of Baal and his opponents, bringing down fire on the agents of the king who demanded him to come down from the mountain and see the king, to raising the dead child of the widow of Zarephath to whom he also showed God’s grace and love with the miraculous and endless supply of flour and oil for her family to eat and survive during the great famine and drought.
But the people would still not be turned by all these efforts, although some were definitely touched by the faith and the efforts of the prophet. Most of the people, like that of their king, Ahab, and his successors remained in sin, living in sin and continuing to worship the pagan gods and idols, save for Jehu, the successor of the house of Ahab, whom God had chosen to be the king of Israel, and whom Elijah had helped to put in place. In all these, we see how God has cared so much about His people, that He sent them a great prophet to help them and reach out to them, and in the end, when that prophet had completed his ministry, God also took him up into heaven for the greater glory of His works.
How is this related to our Gospel passage today? We heard of the Lord Jesus ministering to the people, spreading the words of God’s truth among them. He was the new great Prophet sent into the world, and His role was affirmed as at the moment of Transfiguration, the prophet Elijah and Moses appeared before the Lord and spoke to Him on Mount Tabor as witnessed by three of the Apostles. This highlighted the Lord as the fulfilment of all the prophecies, and He Himself, as the one and true Prophet of prophets, would complete God’s plan to save mankind.
The Lord Himself faced challenges, opposition, rejection and difficulties, just as the prophet Elijah and myriads of other prophets had experienced. But He still carried on His work and ministry, for the wonderful and enduring love which He has for each and every one of us, the sons and daughters of mankind. And He has always reminded His followers and disciples to focus their hearts, their minds and their attention on God, and the way to do this is through having stronger and more authentic relationship with Him.
And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is through prayer! Just as the Lord taught His disciples how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer composed by Himself as the inspiration and example of what prayers should be like, and what prayers are meant to be. Prayer is the intimate form of communication between us and God, for us to get close to God and to open ourselves to Him. But many of us often got it wrong about prayer, thinking of prayer as a means for us to gain ourselves what we want and need from God.
That is why when we prayed, many of us often ended up falling into the temptation of focusing on ourselves, looking inward and immersed in our ego, desire, pride and ambition rather than to focus our attention in God. The Lord Jesus taught us to focus our attention on God, to honour and glorify Him, to thank Him for all the wonderful blessings He has given to us, and to devote ourselves to Him, and then, surely, God will guide us and help us. And in prayer, we ought to open ourselves to the Lord, to listen to Him and to follow Him in whatever He wants us to do.
Let us all therefore deepen our relationship to the Lord, our Father through prayer and by drawing ever closer to Him. Let us all follow Him faithfully much as how the prophet Elijah had dedicated his life to serve Him, by doing what we can, in our own lives, in our own respective communities and places, to obey the Lord and to do our best in serving Him, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.