The Mantle Passes

In the first reading today we witness the passing of the mantle (אַדֶּרֶת addreth in Hebrew) from Elijah to Elisha. What is a mantle? Although there are variations of the meaning of mantle in the Bible, the main idea is that of a covering such as a cloak or covering as outerwear appearing in the OT (e.g. Joshua 7:21) and NT (e.g. Hebrews 1:12, in the Greek). In biblical times, a mantle was typically a large, loosely fitting garment made of animal skin, probably sheepskin. Several people are mentioned as wearing a mantle, including Job (Job 1:20) and Ezra (Ezra 9:5). The mantle served the practical purpose of keeping people warm and protecting them from the elements. It also served a symbolic purpose, in the case of the prophets, showing they were wrapped in God’s authority – a sign of their calling from God (1 Kings 19:13). Continue reading

The Whirlwind

Every now and again, someone in the Sacrament of Confession will mention a sin, and comment, “I know it’s wrong, but no one is hurt except me.”

In yesterday’s first reading we heard the first part of the story of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel conspiring to dispossess Naboth the Jezreelite of his vineyard in Jezreel located next to the palace of the King. It is a tale of Shakespearean intrigue, malice, and evil doing. And now for the rest of the story. Continue reading

Fish or cut bait

Fish or cut bait is a common English language colloquial expression, dating back to the 19th-century United States. Its origins are not exactly clear and over time the meaning has changed. Most often these days its meaning is clear enough: get to the important task at hand, or get out of the way and at least do something supportive. More generally it can be an admonishment to stop procrastinating. Continue reading

What will this child be?

Our readings for today increasingly act as heralds for the coming of the Messiah as well as pointing to the one who would herald the coming of Jesus. The first reading from the prophet Malachi (whose name means “my messenger”) proclaims that God’s promises are true, but are fulfilled in God’s time, not ours. The reading announces: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me” (Mal 3:1)  and he identifies that messenger: “Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet” (Mal 3:23)  This oracle is several hundred years after the time of Elijah. In 2 Kings 2, Elijah is turning over the mantle of the prophetic office to Elisha but in that scene Elijah departs by boarding a fiery chariot and ascends into heaven. But the tradition in Judaism was that Elijah would return and so several traditions and rituals leave a chair empty and ready for Elijah. Continue reading

An open seat at our tables

This Saturday morning, our readings highlight the Prophets Elijah and John the Baptist, two of the greatest prophets from the times before Jesus. In the first reading from Sirach, we hear

“In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD.”

Continue reading

Making time to listen

Several years ago, I was fortunate to have the time and opportunity to go to Israel on pilgrimage. I remember when I first caught sight of the Sea of Galilee…. I thought it would be bigger. Trust me it is big, but not “Lake Michigan” big. The Sea of Galilee is 8 miles across at it widest and 13 miles in length. So it’s big… I just thought it would be bigger. Continue reading

Testimony: by John

john-the-baptistJohn’s testimony to Jesus will lead others to faith, but it is also offered as evidence in a trial. John’s interrogators in this passage are not curious passersby, but are a delegation sent by official Judaism (vv. 19, 22). The expression “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi, v. 19) occurs repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel and has a wide range of meanings. Its most common usage, as in v.19, is as a synonym for the Jewish religious establishment, which is the source of most of the opposition to Jesus’ ministry in John. Here it likely refers to representative from Jerusalem leadership who quite naturally are going to make inquiries about what may well be a new religious movement – especially if there are messianic claims. There was a history of such movements and claims leading to religious disappointment and political ruin. Once John the Baptist acquired a following, the questions were sure to come. The first one was simple and straight forward. Continue reading

Journey: taken up

Journey to Jerusalem51 When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, 52 and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, 53 but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

Jesus now makes the decisive turn toward Jerusalem and the accomplishment of his exodus (v. 31 – a reference to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus that will take place in Jerusalem, the city of destiny). The theme of the final journey is already in Mark (Mark 10:1, 32), but Luke has developed it to show Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s plan (9:62; 13:33). Luke keeps the reader alert to the journey theme (13:22; 17:11) and uses it to begin to assemble materials from Jesus on the nature of Christian discipleship. Continue reading

The Testimony of John

john-the-baptistJohn’s testimony to Jesus will lead others to faith, but it is also offered as evidence in a trial. John’s interrogators in this passage are not curious passersby, but are a delegation sent by official Judaism (vv. 19, 22). The expression “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi, v. 19) occurs repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel and has a wide range of meanings. Its most common usage, as in v.19, is as a synonym for the Jewish religious establishment, which is the source of most of the opposition to Jesus’ ministry in John. Here it likely refers to representative from Jerusalem leadership who quite naturally are going to make inquiries about what may well be a new religious movement – especially if there are messianic claims. There was a history of such movements and claims leading to religious disappointment and political ruin. Once John the Baptist acquired a following, the questions were sure to come. The first one was simple and straight forward. Continue reading

A Still Small Voice

Elijah-still-small-voiceI have always liked a passage from 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah is on the run from the wrath of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who mean to take his life. The prophet has taken refuge in a cave in Judean wilderness, feels as though he has failed in his mission, is isolated and alone, while all the forces array against him. He calls out to God.

It is a passage that we all can connect with in some measure. Some have been through the caldron of life; others are simply caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life. But in all times and places, we are a people whose mission is to find the voice of God in our lives. So, take a moment and consider this: when and where are you intentional about seeking the voice of God in your life? Continue reading