Never a Long Shot
Homily for Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Preached on June 9, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: 1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 16:1b-2ab, 4, 5ab, 8, 11; Matthew 5:17-19
The odds were 450 to one. But, that did not stop Elijah in betting his life on his long shot God in a showdown with all of Baal’s prophets. The rules for this showdown were simple: a young bull was chosen, cut into pieces, and placed on the wood of the altar. But, a fire was not started (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:23-24). Instead, prayers were to be offered and “the God who answers with fire is God” (1 Kgs. 18:24)
The prophets of Baal outnumbered Elijah 450 to one (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:22). Because they were so many, they prepared the altar and the offering without breaking a sweat. They spent morning to noon hopping around the altar, crying out loud, and slashing themselves with swords and spears, begging Baal to answer with fire (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:26-28). Even though they were 450 strong, “there was not a sound,” there was not a fire; “no one answered, and no one was listening” (1 Kgs. 18:28).
It took a while for Elijah to repair the altar of the Lord (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:30) because he had to do everything by himself, being the only surviving prophet of the Lord (1 Kgs. 18:22). He dug a deep trench around the altar, arranged the wood, cut up the young bull, and laid it on the wood (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:32-33). Three times he had the altar drenched with jars full of water (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:34-35). He did not hop. He did not cry out loud. He felt no need to slash himself. He simply prayed, “Answer me, Lord!” (1 Kgs. 18:37) And this time, Someone was listening, and answered with fire (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:38).
The odds were 450 to one. But we should not be fooled by those numbers. Elijah, the Lord’s prophet and bookie, reminds us that even with those odds our God is never a long shot. “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” (1 Kgs. 18:39) And the odds are always in His favor. We can bet our lives on it.