Happy Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord. This feast brings to our attention the prophet Elijah, who was one of the two prophets to perform the miracle of resurrection. He raises the son of the widow of Zarephath.
The book of Jonah names him the son of Amittai, who is not mentioned elsewhere. Who is he? Who is his family? He prays in the belly of the whale, “I cried to the Lord, and he heard me in my distress.” The ancient rabbis believed Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath. that Elijah raised from the dead. He describes being freed from the nether world before the Lord speaks to the fish and it vomits him upon the dry land.
If any city deserved just punishment from God, it was Nineveh, capital of Assyria. The Ninevites perform an amazing fast which includes their animals and infants. Jonah is angry that God forgives them. The book ends with God asking Jonah, “Shouldn’t I save this people and also much cattle?”
Jonah, if he is the widow’s son as the rabbis believed, died in the course of a great famine. God sent Elijah to a Sidonian (Zarephath belongs to Sidon), not a Jew. What happens when you survive a terrible tragedy? What is your purpose? God gives Jonah a job, and he can’t bring himself to do it. Why did Elijah bring Jonah back to life? To live a life that bears witness to great mercy. God is the only lover of mankind even in great trial. Jonah was brought back from the dead so he could show great mercy and compassion.
The Eucharist is our resurrection, the widow’s little bit of meal and oil. Elijah has been sent to us unexpectedly, not because we were clever enough to find the true faith.
On the other side of resurrection, we have to find a way to show mercy without begrudging it like Jonah.
Resurrection is traumatic. The disciples are often full of fear, confusion, repentance, and tears after the Resurrection. Some even doubt at the Ascension.
The Resurrection is not just a victory for our side against everyone else. Jesus tells the Nazarenes, “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” When he says this, everyone wants to throw Him off a cliff.
We encounter the resurrected Lord in the Eucharist. He gives it to you freely—rejoice! And tremble. You must forgive others and bear witness to His mercy and compassion.
These thoughts are taken from a homily by Father Daniel at St. Basil’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Irving, Texas, on July 20, 2016, Feast Day of Saint Elijah the Prophet.