St Aloysius Gonzaga

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire,
his word flaring like a torch.
How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah…
designated in the prophecies of doom
to allay God’s wrath before the fury breaks,
to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children,
and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Ecclesiasticus 48

Jesus said to his disciples…you should pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven…
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us…’
Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours, but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you either.

Matthew 6

. . .

The list of Elijah’s miracles is much longer than what I have quoted above, of course. How could the writer not include Elijah’s amazing display of God’s power in the face of the prophets of Ba’al? Or his raising a widow’s son from the dead? Elijah’s miracles are impressive, to be sure. But the list culminates with what seems to be the purpose of all these miracles: to restore the tribes of Jacob, by the miracle of turning the fathers’ hearts back to their children. This is a miracle? Are not the hearts of the fathers turned naturally toward their children?

No. The hearts of the fathers, and of the children, too, are turned away. It seems to me that the hearts of the fathers being turned away signals the breakdown of human community as God intended it to be. All our hearts are turned the wrong direction–away from God, and away from those closest to us, those whom we are expected naturally and instinctively to love. But we fail: it takes a miracle to turn our hearts in the right direction. We need to be re-oriented to give and receive love as we should.

This helps, I think, with what seem to be the harsh words following the Lord’s prayer in Matthew’s gospel: if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven, and that means, well, the ‘doom’ prophesied in Elijah’s day. We need a miracle to allay that wrath. Fortunately, God seems well-disposed to offering just that sort of miracle. And so we have Jesus to mediate and the Spirit to inspire and to strengthen. And that is very good news indeed.

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