On 7th October 2020 Pope Francis's Wednesday General Audience was of even more interest to Carmelites than usual, since the Holy Father's catechesis was on the biblical prophet Elijah, whom Carmelites revere as spiritual father of the Order. The pope said that believers "need the spirit of Elijah" as part of his ongoing reflection on prayer and 'Healing the World wounded by the pandemic'.
The following report is from Vatican News.
Speaking to the faithful in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, Pope Francis described the prophet Elijah as “one of the most compelling characters in the whole of Sacred Scripture.”
Elijah and the Bible
“He goes beyond the confines of his time,” the pope said. He also recalled how Elijah appeared at Jesus' side, together with Moses, at the moment of the Transfiguration.
In the Bible, the pope noted, “Elijah appears suddenly, in a mysterious way.”
Pope Francis said the prophet Elijah is a man without “a precise origin, and above all without an end, taken up into heaven: for this reason, his return was expected before the coming of the Messiah.”
The Pope emphasized, “Scripture presents Elijah as a man of crystalline faith ... Elijah is the example of all people of faith who know temptation and suffering, but do not fail to live up to the ideal for which they were born.”
Focusing on Elijah’s prayer life, Pope Francis underlined how prayer and contemplation sustained the prophet not only in moments of great success but also in the face of adversity and persecution.
In off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis highlighted the need for the “spirit of Elijah” in today’s world: “How much we need believers, zealous Christians, who stand up in front of people with responsibility with the courage of Elijah: to say, "You cannot do this.” ... Elijah is the man of God, who stands as a defender of the primacy of the Most High. And yet, he too is forced to come to terms with his own frailties.”
Wisdom of Elijah
Pope Francis explained to those gathered that Elijah “shows us that there should be no dichotomy in the life of those who pray: one stands before the Lord and goes towards the brothers and sisters to whom He sends us. The proof of prayer is the real love of one’s neighbour.”
Elijah teaches us, commented the Pope, that ardent prayer and union with God cannot be separated from concern for the needs of others.
Digressing from his prepared text, Pope Francis noted that prayer is “a confrontation with God and letting oneself be sent to serve one's brothers and sisters.”
In prayer, Pope Francis pointed out, the prophet grew in discernment of the Lord’s will and found the courage to denounce injustice, even at great personal cost.
Elijah’s experience of God in prayer, he noted, culminated, when the Lord appeared to him not in wind and fire, but “in a quiet whisper.”
Elijah, a story for us all
“This is the story of Elijah,” the pope concluded, “but it seems written for all of us ... In some evenings we can feel useless and lonely. It is then that prayer will come and knock on the door of our hearts ... Even if we have done something wrong, or if we feel threatened and frightened, when we return before God in prayer, serenity and peace will return as if by miracle.”
Text: Dr. Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C. & Vatican News
Image & Video: Aleteia