God Mysteriously Knows How to Derive Good from Evil

by Edmond Lo
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17:17-24

Galatians 1:11-14A,15AC,16A,17,19

Luke 7:11-17

As God’s true prophet, Elijah was faithful and obedient in doing what God asked him to do. He was asked to leave his birth place Tishbe to hide in Wadi Cherith, east of Jordan, to eat only bread and meat brought to him by ravens, and to drink from the stream. He did what he was told. But soon after the brook ran dry due to a drought in the land (see 1 Kgs 17:1-7).

Then he was asked to go to Zarephath of Sidon to live in the house of a widow. Again he did what he was told. But quickly he ran into an incident that was ten times worse: the widow’s son died and she blamed Elijah for causing his death (see 1 Kgs 17:8-18).

Already with King Ahab and Jezebel in power, Elijah found himself terribly isolated - out-numbered and “out-gunned” by the false prophets who venerated Baal and whom King Ahab and Jezebel supported.

It appeared the “rewards” for Elijah’s faithfulness and obedience to God were just problem after problem. So perhaps we can’t blame him for being a little “ticked” when he called out to God, "O LORD, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?" (1 Kgs 17:20)

Sounded familiar? For those who sacrifice their time and effort to do work for God, how often do we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place like Elijah was? Like Jesus’ disciples who feared they might perish in the storm because Jesus appeared to have fallen asleep (cf. Mt 8:23-27), sometimes we also doubt God’s protection for us. Not that He is incapable but maybe - just maybe - He’s not paying attention!

But attentive God is, not only to important matters where our life is at stake but also to every little thing, down to the most trivial. “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted” (Lk 12:7). God “mysteriously knows how to derive good from [evil]”, the Catechism explains (CCC 311). The “problem” encountered by Elijah, as it turned out, was actually a blessing, and his irritation towards God unwarranted. With Elijah pleading for God’s intervention, the boy was miraculously brought back to life. Not only did the seemingly unfortunate incident manifest God’s providence and almighty power, it also prefigured Jesus’ power in bringing “dead people” like us back to life, which is the theme of today’s gospel reading. For we must die to ourselves in order to really live (cf. Eph 4:22-24, Jn 12:24).