Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Kings 2:1.6-14; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
“Is there a Santa Claus?” children ask. If they are old enough, one might answer, “It depends what you mean by Santa.” Santa Claus is not a man who lives at the North Pole and takes toys to every boy and girl on Christmas Eve. But Santa Claus may be thought of as God Himself who loves every child so much that He moves hundreds of millions of parents to express His affection. The story of Elijah’s assumption into heaven told in the first reading may be seen in a similar way.
It is a fantastic tale. The old Elijah is walking along with his young companion when a flaming chariot sweeps him into heaven. Although fundamentalists may consider the story historical, more probably Elijah’s assumption is a figurative way of saying that he dies in God’s favor. The Old Testament has many wondrous testimonies – Methuselah living almost a thousand years or Ezekiel bringing dry bones to life being two.
We should be neither defensive of nor disillusioned by the story of Elijah’s assumption. Calling it symbolic will not compromise our belief in Christ’s resurrection. Much of the Old Testament serves as a type for the New. That is, what the Old Testament suggests is brought to fulfillment in Christ. The Elijah story, taking place more than eight hundred years before Christ, confirms the righteousness of God which comes into full force with the paschal mystery. Elijah’s leaving a double portion of his spirit on Elisha foreshadows Jesus’ sending the Holy Spirit on his disciples.