12Jun 12th June. Thursday in the 10th Week

First Reading: 1 Kings 18:41-46

(To end the three-year drought, to the west of Mount Carmel a small dark cloud appears and develops into a heavy rain.)

Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, “Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”” In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26

(Before offering a gift on the altar, go first to be reconciled with your neighbour.)

Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Finding God on the heights

There is a dramatic flair about Elijah, who lived on the heights of Mount Carmel and again and again sends his servant to the high ridge overlooking the Mediterranean with the instruction, “Look out to sea.” On the seventh occasion the announces “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” The seventh time indicates completion, perfection, the full circle of the will of God. The moment has come for a torrential rainfall to end the long drought and to begin a new age for Israel, though the people failed to seize this glorious opportunity.

Then we move eastward to the Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Lake of Galilee, where Jesus delivers the extensive Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps. 5-7). He tells us how to see his glory and so to be transformed to be like him: “Do not grow angry, do not use abusive language, do not offer a gift on the altar without first being reconciled with neighbour.” This advice may seem too elementary, ever to place us on the road to mystical experiences like Moses or Elijah or Jesus. Yet, it is charity, patience and forgiveness that draws us to Mount Calvary where Jesus died, that tore open the veil that separated us from the Holy of Holies, and that enables us like Moses to converse with God.

It was so beautiful to see the hills of the Holy Land in the background of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Jordan and Israel. Equally beautiful to see the Pope seeking to promote respect and reconciliation between the conflict-beset groups of that fateful region; and to see him travel in such cordial company with his friends, the Imam and the Rabbi. We also find God in our neighbour, if only we seek Him there!