First Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him. So Elijah said to the people, “I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God.” All the people answered, “Agreed!” Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.” Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, “Answer us, Baal!” But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared. When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening. (1 Kings 18:21-29)
In today's first reading, we see a show down between God's prophet Elijah, and the prophets of the false god baal. This is one of my favorite stories of Elijah, not only does it show some great biblical smack talk going on (when Elijah is taunting them), but it is also an awesome demonstration to the people that God is the one true God, and the only one to be worshipped. Now the reality is that the people should not have needed this reminder, but sadly it had come to this that the people were wishy washy in their faith, and many had turned to the false god baal.
At the beginning of today's first reading, the prophet Elijah asks the ancient Israelites a question that many people should ask themselves today: "How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal, follow Him." It is really that simple, if the Lord is our God then we should follow Him, if we are letting something else rule our lives then follow that. Not that I am advocating following worldly things, but the reality is that we cannot be "on the fence" when it comes to God. There are many people who are on the fence and are trying to be both for God and for themselves. These are the people who are wishy washy about God and their faith, they might go through some of the motions like attending mass, occasional prayer when something is wrong; but their heart is not fully with the Lord. They are not exactly "all in", they are simply on the fence and are "straddling the issue."
When it comes to serving God, middle of the road does not work. We cannot be on the fence when it comes to God. We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, not just part of it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for our lives and for the many gifts you have given to us. Lord, help us not to be on the fence but to follow you with all that we are. Help us to have courage and to persevere in this life. Lord, you are our good merciful God, we are your people, help us to show it all times. We pray for all of those who are one the fence, may they come to fully embrace your loving and merciful ways. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.