Elijah arose, a prophet like fire,
and his word burned like a torch.
He brought a famine upon them,
and by his zeal he made them few in number.
By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens,
and also three times brought down fire.
How glorious you were, Elijah,
in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You raised a corpse from death
and from Hades, by the word of the Most High.
You sent kings down to destruction,
and famous men, from their sickbeds.
You heard rebuke at Sinai
and judgments of vengeance at Horeb.
You anointed kings to inflict retribution,
and prophets to succeed you.
You were taken up by a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with horses of fire.
At the appointed time, it is written,
you are destined to calm the wrath of God
before it breaks out in fury,
to turn the hearts of parents to their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob.
Happy are those who saw you
and were adorned with your love!
For we also shall surely live.
When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind,
Elisha was filled with his spirit.
He performed twice as many signs,
and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.
Never in his lifetime did he tremble before any ruler,
nor could anyone intimidate him at all.
Nothing was too hard for him,
and when he was dead, his body prophesied.
In his life he did wonders,
and in death his deeds were marvellous.
The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne. (R./)
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes round about.
His lightnings illumine the world;
the earth sees and trembles. (R./)
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory. (R./)
All who worship graven things are put to shame,
who glory in the things of nought;
all gods are prostrate before him. (R./)
Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
When the wise teacher, Ben Sirach, wrote a series of glowing vignettes about great spiritual heroes of the past, to inspire his students to cling to their Jewish heritage. Naturally he highlighted the merits of those great characters and glossed over their foibles. He spares no hyperbole in his portrayal of Elijah, as a prophet like fire, radiant with God's light, who powerfully defended the faith and upheld the traditions of Israelite religion in an era of rampant paganism. What might an Elijah perform for the restoration of biblical faith in Ireland today, or all round the developed areas of our world?
Relatives and friends of those priests of Ba'al who were slain by the lightning-bolt at the behest of the indignant prophet, might have a different picture of Elijah, as a man of violent rage and passionate conviction, for whom tolerance and ecumenism would be of no account. The most kindly term that could be used of him in the modern media would be "extremist"!
While Elijah is several times mentioned in the Gospels, only once is it with reference to the bloody clash of values upon Mount Carmel when he drew down fire from heaven. Rather, he is remembered for his fidelity, and for his compassion towards the widow during the famine. Hopefully in his old age this fiery prophet, tempered by the experience of exile in the wilderness, had learned a milder spirit of tolerance, like that urged in our Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount.
The Lord's Prayer is reported in two gospels, Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus prefacesit by advising us not to use many words, or babble formulae as the pagans did.
It was pagan practice to bombard the gods with formulae, to induce them to be favourable to humankind. But Christians are not to pray in that mechanical way. Our heavenly Father cannot be persuaded or manipulated by heaping up endless petitions. Rather, Jesus teaches us to surrender to whatever God wills.
What he wants us to want most is God's glory, the coming of God's kingdom, the doing of God's will. We don't spend all our energies just asking for what we want for pray for what God wants. We acknowledge our dependence on God, for our basic needs -- for food for the day, for forgiveness, for strength to go on living.
The Lord's Prayer is powerful in its simplicity. It is not simply one prayer among many; it is an iconicteaching on how to pray.