Tuesday, June 12, 2012
You Are Alone My God
June 13, 2012
Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church
By Colleen O'Sullivan
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!”… “Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, (the prophets of Baal) 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.”… Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.
(Then) 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… 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!” (I Kings 18:20-24, 26-27, 29, 36, 38-39)
Keep me safe, O God;
in you I take refuge;
I say to the Lord,
you are my Lord.
What a scene we have portrayed in today’s reading from I Kings, true Hollywood epic film material! The prophet Elijah has had it up to his eyeballs with the fickle ways of God’s people. Sometimes they worship the God of Israel and, when it’s more convenient, they worship Baal. There is no loyalty in them. Elijah wants them to decide once and for all who the true god is, so he sets up this “competition.” The prophets of Baal try everything. They prepare their altar. They cut up their sacrificial bull. They hop endlessly around the altar. They spend hours calling on Baal. They even slash themselves with their weapons, all to no avail. Their god is silent and powerless.
Elijah, not breaking a sweat, even ups the stakes when it’s his turn. He has water poured on the wood, making it all the more difficult to ignite. When he calls on the Lord, begging God to answer so that the people will have no doubt who the true God is, the Lord immediately sends down fire that burns up the bull, the wood and even the stones! No longer is there any doubt. The God of Israel is the one true God.
We are all guilty of dancing around altars of false gods at times. We find ourselves putting our trust in the things money can buy or in money itself. We are sometimes more wrapped up in our human relationships than in our relationship with God. Sometimes it is our failed relationships or old hurts and wounds that consume our time and energy. For others of us, it’s pride in being self-sufficient that rules the day. You can fill in the blank for yourself.
But, no matter what false god’s altar we worship at, we find ourselves just as defeated as the 450 prophets of Baal. We may be temporarily deluded, but in the end, there is no god but our God. No other god created us and all the universe. No false god has ever sent his or her only child into the world to suffer and die for us. False gods don’t rise from the dead. No other god has the power to forgive our sins. No other god can truly comfort and console us when we are beset by troubles. When our loved ones die, when we die, it’s God’s arms, no other’s, that are waiting to receive us into eternal life.
This scene from the days of Elijah continues to be replayed over and over to this day. When we sin, we inevitably find we’ve put something other than God at the center of our lives. We’ve been dancing around some other god’s altar. When you have time today, reflect on the last week and what false god’s altars you’ve worshiped at. The good news is that God always forgives us and is happy to welcome us back when we admit to our betrayals and are ready to say, “You alone are my God.”