We take a short break from our continuous reading from First and Second Kings today. Yesterday we heard the story of Elijah being taken up in the whirlwind as his disciple Elisha took up Elijah’s prophetic mantle. This event is actually the hinge that closes the first book and opens the second book. However, before we read the rest of the second book, we read the eulogy of Elijah that appears in the Book of Sirach. The sacred author of this book devotes six chapters to eulogies of the great heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures. Both Elijah and Elisha are included in this list of heroes.
Reading from “The Book of All Virtuous Wisdom of Jesus ben Sir,” the official title of this book, is meant to be a meditative or recollective exercise. Because of this quality, it is one of the easiest books to pray with as it leads us through considerations of how to live out the covenant relationship that was established between God and the people. In a way it is a bridge that leads us into the Christian Scriptures or New Testament as it helps us to contemplate the new covenant that we have in Jesus. Elijah is one of two characters who, according to Jewish lore, do not die but are taken up into the heavens alive. Consequently, it was thought that Elijah would reappear before the Messiah was revealed. For this reason, John the Baptist is cast very much in the same light as the prophet Elijah.
In the Gospel today, Jesus introduces us to the prayer that we have come to cherish and pray each and every day. The first part of that prayer is written in language that is very close to the prophetic utterances of Elijah who was constantly calling upon the children of Israel to realize that the God of Israel was the creator of the heavens and the earth and the one who sustained them throughout all the trials that naturally occurred during their lifetimes. Jesus also recognizes the fact that our Father is the God of Heaven, and that whatever God wills will in fact come to pass. The prayer for daily bread which proceeds the prayer for reconciliation also elicit thoughts that are common to Elijah and Jesus.
Today we come to the Lord’s table looking for our daily bread, remembering the widow who was fed by Elijah and the multitude that was fed by Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator