A year ago today, I was on Mt. Carmel in northwest Israel. I was with twenty-five other priests. Archbishop Raymond Burke was leading us on a pilgrimage of the Holy Land.
Archbishop Burke preached to us every day. Not long ago, he kindly sent us copies of all the homilies he gave while we were in the Holy Land.
The first thing we did when we arrived in Israel was to celebrate Holy Mass. The Archbishop said: “We are pilgrims making our way homeward here, not tourists visiting foreign places. We belong in these places. They are home for us.”
Last year, February 19 was in Lent, the forty-day season of preparation for the greatest feast day of the year. The Archbishop encouraged us to pray during the pilgrimage especially for everyone who was to be baptized or received into the Church at Easter.
Then we went north to visit the places where the events in I Kings 18 took place.
Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a “duel” at a place now called Muhraqa, “the place of sacrifice.” The false prophets couldn’t make anything happen, but Elijah called down fire from heaven.
Elijah triumphed. But Jezebel, devoted to Baal, was not pleased. Elijah had to flee for his life.
At the cave of Elijah, Archbishop Burke said:
The reality of this place remains always the reality of that fundamental mission of announcing the Word of God, teaching the truth of God’s law. We have experienced it in our own minnistry as those consecrated to speak the Word of God in a culture forgetful of God and hostile to His law. The grace of zeal for the House of the Lord can bring us, as it brought Elijah, the wrath of those who prefer the message of the false prophets of death. We, too, can be tempted to flee from the office, to give up announcing the Word of God to those who seem indifferent. But the Lord, with His “still small voice,” asks us, “What are you doing here?” And we know that only in continuing to announce the Word of God will we be true to who we are, as priests, in our deepest being.
I wish I myself were more faithful and zealous, like Elijah was. The Archbishop’s words spur me on, in spite of my unworthiness.