Today’s readings say, “If you believe that Jesus is God, follow
First we have the Old Testament story about Elijah’s faith in his Lord, the
“God in Israel,” , and the Lord’s excellent demonstration of His power.
Fire triumphs over water to make the children of Israel proclaim that they
believe: “The LORD is God!” In the Psalm, we who believe in the Lord
sing our faith – and our need to have God’s power in our lives: “Keep
me safe, O God; you are my hope.”
And then in today‘s Gospel passage, Jesus asserts that he will “fulfill,”
the law, complete the work of the prophets like Elijah. Every bit of
every word of the Old Testament’s promise that God is with us is realized
in the Incarnation of the Word., in the water of Baptism in Christ, and in
the fires of Pentecost.
Yet while the law and the prophets are not abolished, I think our faith is
“new” in our confidence that God is truly with us in this world, even though
we don’t expect God to send fire down from heaven in answer to some modern
Elijah. We are reasonably skeptical of “miracles.” Last year, in my
own home town in Massachusetts, a remarkable image resembling a portrait
of Mary, the Mother of God, became apparent in a double-glazed window at
the local hospital. Huge crowds gathered to view the window, and many
believed it to be a miraculous sign. Thus it surely WAS a miracle in the
sense of the definition of miracles given by a character in George Bernard
Shaw’s play Saint Joan: “If they confirm or create faith, they
are true miracles.” Although a natural explanation that includes
words like “condensation” and “coincidence” is pretty obvious, the hospital’s
window served, for some, like Elijah’s consuming fire. While for safety reasons
the window is covered for much of the day, my brother reports that people
are still coming in the limited viewing hours to pray and to leave flowers
by the wall of the building. Their faith is also “miracle,” a sign
of God’s power in the world.
Given the skepticism of our times, we are grateful for the gift of faith
in God, in Christ, Risen Savior, living and powerful, here and now.
We see the world as, to use Andrew Greeley’s adjective, “enchanted,” God-filled,
and manifesting God’s power in everything, from the fires of sunsets and
the waters of ocean surf, to the generous sacrifices of our heroes.
With faith and hope I pray today from the tradition of the law and the prophets
as taught to me: “Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in us the fires of your Love.”