ONE SPIRIT, TWO MEN … FOR NOW
The prophet Elijah was sent by God to the people of Israel at a time when they had fallen very seriously into the sin of idolatry. The temptation of idolatry has always been around and will probably always be around. At its core, idolatry is the rejection of the true God for man-made alternatives. In the past it may have been sticks and stones, the sun and moon, or creatures from the animal world. But whatever shape the idolatry took, it boiled down to human pride dethroning the true God and replacing Him with man’s own ideas. Idolatry is about the self, reducing everything and everyone to my own views, tastes, preferences, fears, outlook.
The spirit given to Elijah was to inspire him to “draw people’s hearts back” to the One God, the true and living God. It was to draw them away from false gods and from the self-destruction they inevitably, and eventually, bring. It was a mission of salvation, of liberation, of redemption, of buying back the heart of man to find life in the living God. Elijah was a formidable man. Strong in stature, uncompromising and penetrating in his words. He slaughtered all the false prophets of the idols after a remarkable display of his God-given power to call down fire from heaven. No false prophet was to be left alive lest the people started listening to him again and so fall away from the living God.
But Elijah was really only a forerunner of the Baptist. The spirit of Elijah was in the Baptist in a far more radical and fuller way since he was to point out the presence of the living God in the person of Jesus. The Baptist’s forthright preaching, his austere lifestyle, his call to a baptism of repentance, away from the idolatry of sin, to prepare the way of the Lord: all of these were aimed at preparing people for what the Baptist believed was the end of time, the glorious appearance of the Messiah who would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.
Will there be a third Elijah, or a second Baptist? Every era would seem to need one, since idolatry is like an endemic cancer in the heart of man. The sophisticated forms of idolatry around today, outside and within the Church, beg for another Elijah. Woe to us if we engage in accomodationism, that is, in the suicidal attempt to mould the true faith in the living God to the man-made dogmas of our time. May the Lord raise up in our time men and women with the spirit of Elijah and of the Baptist, with their clarity, strength and intrepid denunciation of all idolatry, to turn hearts back to the true and living God and prepare us for his coming at the end of our lives and at the end of time.