by Ken Rolheiser

Reading signs and walking faithfully

When I was a child I predicted rain for many days in a row. I had discovered somewhere that if there is no morning dew on the grass, then that was a sign of rain. Well, it didn’t work. But I was a determined little prophet.

Elijah was more successful when he told King Ahab: "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." (1 Kings 17:1) Elijah walked faithfully with God and his reward included being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot.

Much earlier Enoch, a descendant of Adam, also “walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 5:27) for 365 years and was taken up to heaven. Now that sounds attractive, being “taken up” instead of dying. If we walk faithfully with God, we will be raised up to eternal life. The life of God within us will just continue after our mortal breath leaves us.

Elijah is a fascinating prophet of the Old Testament. In one story about Elijah, an elderly couple is heartbroken when they must sell their sacred shabbat candlesticks because they are starving.

A stranger in shabby clothes visits them that evening. They offer him their bed while they sew some clothes for him. The visitor turns out to be Elijah who, as he leaves, rewards them by turning his footprints into gold.

Elijah fought the idolatry sweeping the land when Ahab ruled with his wife Jezebel. Elijah had to flee for his life and depend on ravens to bring him food at the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan River.

When this food source dried up Elijah visited the widow at Zarephath who shared her last food with him He rewarded her by multiplying her little food and by raising her son from the dead (1 Kings 17).

Eventually Elijah challenged the 450 followers of Baal to a sacrificial “cook off” on Mount Carmel. The idolaters of Baal tried to call down fire to burn their sacrifice. They cried out from morning until night and slashed themselves until blood flowed. Nothing happened.

In a dramatic scene Elijah drenched his sacrifice and filled the trench surrounding it with water. As Elijah called on the Lord, fire fell from heaven and devoured the sacrifice, the wood, the altar and even the dust around it (1 Kings 18).

In the dramatic end to the drought Elijah brought upon the land, “Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain’.” (1 Kings 18:41-46). Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. “Elijah girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel”.

What of all these fascinating events from the bible? How do they help us in 2018? We can walk with God in faith. We can be imbued with the Holy Spirit as we try to follow Jesus, making use of the sacramental gifts available through the Church.

And if we look around us we can see models of faithful living. I can see the spirit of Elijah in some who run the good race. It is easier to imitate and follow these living examples that touch our daily lives. The challenge is for each one of us to be a sign.

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