10th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year II)
I Kings 17:1-6, Psalm 121, Matthew 5:1-12
In a world of individuals where people scrape and fend for themselves in order to survive, the image of a ragged Elijah in haircloth being fed by ravens seems unreal. Elijah is a type of monk or hermit—St. John the Baptist was compared to him (Luke 1:17)—and is claimed by the Carmelites as their founder and inspiration. Freed from self-care, Elijah was able to focus all of his energy on God.
In the third century after Pentecost, a wave of Elijah and Baptist imitators swept across Egypt and Syria as men and women fled the cities to seek God alone in the desert. The clothing worn by the two prophets inspired their simple habits—sleeveless tunics, belts and sandals—and signified their renunciation of the pomp and vanity of this world.
Like Elijah, the early Christian ascetics lived simply and relied on Divine Providence for their daily needs. They earned only enough to sustain bare necessities in order to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your shade” (Psalm 121:5), they believed, receiving bread from the Father’s ravens.
The prophets and ascetics in salvation history demonstrate with their own lives that the kingdom of heaven is not of this world, but begins in the human heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” was the motto of the desert. In a world of measurable distances, corners, edges and surfaces, we need not travel an inch to find the infinite space for the divine within the heart, the dwelling place of the Trinity.
In the blissful state of heavenly communion—when “all mine are thine, and thine are mine”—all persons will be freed from self-care, rejoicing in the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can begin today by trusting in the Lord to provide for our needs and those of the whole world.