Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Since Monday of this week, the first reading from the daily lectionary for Mass has come from the 1st Book of Kings and has concentrated on a particularly severe drought that had come upon Israel during the reign of Ahab and the prophetic ministry of Elijah. The drought brought to a head the conflict between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal, a false god in Israel. Because we read the story in short segments, the conflict might not be readily apparent.
Baal was a false god who was held as the god of fertility, the god who governed the natural produce of the earth. Consequently, when a drought afflicts Israel, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal and maintains that the God of Israel is the only God, the God of creation. The famous story of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal which was read yesterday brings that conflict to an end as Elijah proves once and for all that no false gods can be allowed in Israel.
Today's reading brings tells of the end of the drought. Elijah's faith in God is vindicated. Once the prophets of Baal have been put to death, God responds by sending rain to the parched earth. While this story might seem on the surface to be a story of conflict between two different viewpoints, the point of the story is much more involved. The six so-called history books of the Bible (1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles) are part of a large body which is called the Deuteronomic Corpus. This book develops the relationship that was ratified in the Sinai Covenant. These books seek to remind us that God's love for us in unconditional, not reciprocal. The lack of obedience displayed by most of the Kings of Israel, which is detailed in these books, would certainly have justified the abrogation of the covenant. However, God continues to extend love toward the people despite the fact that they continually find new ways to ignore their responsibilities under the covenant.
As we continue to read from the histories, it becomes ever more clear that nothing will ever compromise God's love and care for us.