Saturday, July 20, 2013

Clothed with the Sun or Dressed in Tatters?

Once again 2 Kings 2:1-15 (this morning’s First Reading from the Office of Readings) touched me. Normally, I don’t get much beyond the ragamuffin guild prophets and how earnestly they fit into the scene with both Elijah and Elisha. In faith, we distinguish between the guild and these two men chosen by God, but appearances probably left most spectators at the time without a clue as to how to distinguish them. Then again, maybe we don’t need to distinguish because at issue is not appearance, status or respectability but rather the fruits of their prophesying, and the Response from the Office comes to our rescue:

R: Before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will reconcile fathers to sons and sons to fathers.

John will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will go before him as a forerunner, possessed by the spirit and power of Elijah. He will reconcile fathers to sons and sons to fathers.”

Perhaps that too, the seeming anomaly of appearances, explains the dynamism or the poetry of today’s Gospel at Mass [Matthew 12:14-21]:

“The Pharisees went out and began to plot against him, discussing how to destroy him. Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:

Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved, the favorite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smoldering wick till he has led the truth to victory: in his name the nations will put their hope.”

As faithful as any of us might be, each of us according to our state in life, thoroughly committed to cultivating a truly quality relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him with the Father, in the Holy Spirit, Isaiah’s prophecy still needs to sink in, needs to shake us out of whatever it is that holds us apart from Christ and His Church, and to fill us.

The Evangelist Matthew interprets the scene for us: Jesus withdraws from a potential confrontation and claims the victory for truth and for Himself in the words of the prophet Isaiah. It would seem that clinging to Christ and to His Church is enough; we don't necessarily have to be "written up and decorated for heroism on the battlefield", and we certainly don't need to be disconsolate for lack of victories to our personal account. Where the Spirit dwells and in abundance, guild prophets vs. Elijah and Elisha, who indeed carries the prophet's mantle, we will leave to the Lord in His own good time to reveal. Meantime, we will keep fighting or withdrawing, from the district or beyond the Jordan, as He Himself may bid.

There’s lots of “saber rattling” going on these days… we need but cling to Jesus in His Bride the Church (ragamuffin as she might sometimes appear). By prayer and self-sacrifice we need but open ourselves to His promptings and see where He would lead us. His is the Glory, His is the Victory.


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