Ahab sent to all the children of Israel
and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel.
Elijah appealed to all the people and said,
“How long will you straddle the issue?
If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.”
The people, however, did not answer him.
So Elijah said to the people,
“I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD,
and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.
Give us two young bulls.
Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood,
but start no fire.
I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood,
but shall start no fire.
You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD.
The God who answers with fire is God.”
All the people answered, “Agreed!”
Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal,
“Choose one young bull and prepare it first,
for there are more of you.
Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.”
Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it
and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying,
“Answer us, Baal!”
But there was no sound, and no one answering.
And they hopped around the altar they had prepared.
When it was noon, Elijah taunted them:
“Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating,
or may have retired, or may be on a journey.
Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears,
as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.
Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state
until the time for offering sacrifice.
But there was not a sound;
no one answered, and no one was listening.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.”
When the people had done so, he repaired the altar of the LORD
that had been destroyed.
He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob,
to whom the LORD had said, “Your name shall be Israel.”
He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones,
and made a trench around the altar
large enough for two measures of grain.
When he had arranged the wood,
he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood.
“Fill four jars with water,” he said,
“and pour it over the burnt offering and over the wood.”
“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he said,
and they did it a third time.
The water flowed around the altar,
and the trench was filled with the water.
At the time for offering sacrifice,
the prophet Elijah came forward and said,
“LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
let it be known this day that you are God in Israel
and that I am your servant
and have done all these things by your command.
Answer me, LORD!
Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God
and that you have brought them back to their senses.”
The LORD’s fire came down
and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust,
and it lapped up the water in the trench.
Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said,
“The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Make a difference between what belong to God and to human beings.
Living in the world where gold is mixed with tin, truth with falsity, the faithful need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to recognize the truth from many falsities of the world.
Today readings highlight some principles to help the faithful to recognize the truth. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah set up a contest between him and king Ahab, 450 prophets of Baal and all the Israelites. His purpose was for people to recognize the true God and to worship Him. In the Gospel, Jesus wanted his disciples to differentiate between the divine and human law. God’s law is unchangeable while human law can be changed and destroyed.
1/ Reading I: If the Lord is God, follow him.
1.1/ The king and most of the Israelites worshipped Baal: People at all time are easy to forget and quick to change. Under king Ahab’s leadership, he and most of the Israelites turned their back to God and chased after Baal of the Sidonians and Canaanites. They completely forgot what God did for their ancestors. We can list some main reasons which lead people to turn their back to the truth:
(1) The truth hurts: Jesus taught his disciples to choose the narrow road; but people like the wide one and an easy life. Many atheists refuse to believe in God, not because they don’t believe in His existence, but for fearing that if they believe in Him, they must keep His commandments, or at least their conscience is bothered when they want to do something wrong; therefore, they deny God so that they can be free to sin. Not only that, they are irritated when they see someone expresses their faith because it bothers their conscience. So, in the name of freedom, they demand the government to prohibit others’ expression of faith. It is absurd when they have freedom to be atheists but demand others not to live and to express their faith!
(2) The political reason: Many times due to political pressure, the political leaders devise laws against religion for their ambition. For example, after the division of the nation into two kingdoms, the king of Israel, the Northern kingdom, didn’t want his people to come down to Jerusalem for fearing that he shall loose material profits. So, he manufactured two golden calves for people to worship and put them one at Bethel, the boundary of the Northern and Southern kingdom, the other one at Dan, the frontier between Israel and Syria. He also made up feast days and laws for people to worship.
(3) Material gains and enjoyment: The devil and the world know that the most effective bait for people is money. Money allures people to deny the truth, and not many can resist its strength.
(4) To please others: Many know the truth but have no courage to stand for the truth because they want to please others. For examples, king Ahab denied God because he wanted to please queen Jezebel who worshipped Baal. Some children omitted their priesthood or religious vocation because they wanted to please their parent or fearing that they are ungrateful to them.
1.2/ The contest between the prophet Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal: To show the Israelites who is the true God, the prophet Elijah organized a contest in which each party shall set up their own sacrificing altar, prepare a young bull as an offering, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. Each party shall pray to their god. The god who shall send fire from heaven to consume the offering, that god is the true God whom everyone must worship. We can recognize some of the prophet’s intention in this contest:
(1) A courageous suggestion: Elijah was very courageous because he was against king Ahab, 450 prophets of Baal together with queen Jezebel and all the Israelites, to witness for the truth. He invited them to reflect on their absurd faith: “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.”
(2) A dangerous suggestion: but it showed the prophet’s firm faith in God. If the result isn’t happened as the prophet believed, he shall lost his life in the hands of king and 450 prophets of Baal. Of course, there is no “if” in those who completely believe in God’s providence.
(3) An effective suggestion: Nothing is more effect than the eyes can see and the ears can hear. This contest helped the Israelites not only to recognize God’s power but also the absurdity of worshipping idols.
1.3/ The contest’s results
(1) The useless effort of the 450 prophets of Baal: The author reported the ineffective result of their prayer as follows: “They prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.” How could they get the answer when Baal is only the product of human imagination?
(2) Elijah showed people of God’s mighty power: “At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, Lord! Answer me, so this people may know that you, Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.” The Lord’s fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!””
2/ Gospel: Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
All God’s words and law are good and unchangeable because they originated from God and help people to live a good life. The other part belongs to people. If they do that, they shall get the result. Jesus confirmed this principle as follows: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” Below are two main reasons that make people to misunderstand God’s words:
(1) People don’t understand the principle of the law and interpret it according to their understanding: For example, the Sabbath’s law. The principle is for people to worship God and to rest; not to argue about problems related to life, such as: whether one should heal or be healed on the Sabbath; whether one can pluck out the wheat and eat it, etc.
(2) People created more laws: The leaders of Israel created 615 more laws based on the laws which God gave to Moses, not counting oral laws according to their tradition. Human laws can be changed and abolished.
When Jesus argued with the scribes and the Pharisees on problems related to the laws, he wanted people to differentiate between the divine and the human laws. The Pharisees and the scribes wanted to show people that Jesus broke them and wanted to abolish God’s laws. Jesus wanted them to recognize the principle behind the law which is the love for God and others, not keeping the law for the sake of laws.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The truth never depends on majority because people have a tendency to relativize the truth according to their interests. The “go with the flow” attitude shall never lead people to their ultimate goal of life.
– We shouldn’t be so easy to follow the crowd’s interest but must protect the truth and the good. We must live in a way to attain our ultimate goal of life, not to satisfy desires of the world and our own flesh.