The Word: See the Light, Taste the Salt
“The Triumph of Seeds” by Thor Hanson shares an image of how in nature every seed is given a lunch box as it goes off to begin its growth. The avocado, for example, gets a large lunch box, opens it immediately to gobble up nutrients so it can quickly put down a root and push up leaves. Its life begins in a competitive world. Other seeds may wait months or years for the right moment, then they will nibble their modest lunch and leisurely begin the work of growing.
The Books of Kings, that we begin this week, are about the Word of God. With the history of the Kings of Israel and Judea as background, we will see that God’s Word is more powerful than the political choices that shape the world.
Jerusalem has become the center of sacrifice and worship to the God of Israel, but there is competition from the old, holy, ‘high places’. These traditional sites of prayer rub shoulders with Canaanite religion, especially the fertility rites which will always speak to an agricultural people. Elijah will clash with the priests of Canaan because the cycles of sun and rain, all of nature is the domain of the God is Israel, creator of all.
A great summary of the problem is the story of Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel. King Ahab makes a political alliance with the Phoenicians giving Israel access to the sea. A financial coup for his country. But the Word of God trumps being King; kings are subject to the Word contained in the Law of God. A Princess of Sidon, Jezebel, who follows the god of the Canaanites, becomes his queen. This is not a time of ecumenism! Ahab’s policies of religious tolerance are rejected through the Word of Elijah the prophet, a servant of the Word. Note in our story how prophets speak that Word not to call down punishments, but to show the power of God.
Our little story today from Kings simply shows us the power of the Word spoken by the prophet.
Many of us cannot share the Eucharist yet, we watch mass on television. The Word of God is with us. We may not be dining, but we have a lunch box. That is enough for the seed to grow. The Word of Matthew tells us we are salt and light. These are essentials, but they do not stand alone. Salt accompanies, it does not make a meal; light gives itself for another. May we be ministered to by the Word in this moment of our history. Words are calling for justice and equality from our brothers and sisters. Words that speak of the values of Jesus are challenging the values of other kingdoms. May the Words of our brothers and sisters be salt and light. Our God gives growth to the seed in ways we do not understand, it is a mystery, but the vine he tends with love, he makes healthy, so that it will bear fruit abundantly.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.