Every now and again in times like these, times of cultural confusion, times when so many Catholics have fallen away from the practice of the faith or are so breezily dissenting, I think of the prophet Elijah at his lowest moment. He was in a cave, anxious and fretting, so depressed he could barely eat.
Those were very dark times, when huge numbers of Jews fell away from the exclusive worship of the LORD and bent the knee to Baal. Jezebel, the foreign wife of the Jewish King Ahab, was instrumental in this widespread and growing apostasy. Elijah fought and fought against it, and at times felt quite alone.
So there he was, fleeing from Queen Jezebel (who sought his life) and deeply discouraged by his fellow Jews, who were either too confused or too fearful to resist the religion of the Baals required by Jezebel. Elijah seems to have felt quite alone. Perhaps he thought he was the last of those who held the true religion. In the cave, Elijah pours out his lament.
And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Ki 19:9–10).
But God will have none of this despair or complaining, and says to Elijah,
Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have seven thousand in Israel, that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal, nor kissed him with the mouth (1 Ki 19:15–18).
So there ARE others! It is a small remnant to be sure, but Elijah is not alone. A small remnant remains faithful and God will rebuild, working with them.
Elijah is commanded not to give way to discouragement, but rather to keep preaching and to anoint leaders and a prophet who will keep preaching after him.
And here, then, is a lesson for all of us.
In times like these, it is hard not to feel like Elijah: deeply disappointed and even discouraged in the face of our current cultural decline. How many of our countrymen and even fellow Catholics have bowed the knee to the Baals of our time, accepting the doctrines of demons? How many have been led astray by the Jezebels and the false religion of the Baals of our time, setting aside the Cross and substituting the pillow of comfort and selfish desire? And thus now, like then, many are told to immolate their children, to kill the innocent through abortion (and call it “choice,” or “women’s healthcare,” or “reproductive freedom”). There is widespread misunderstanding about marriage; rampant divorce, cohabitation, and fornication; children being born outside of holy matrimony; and wide approval for same-sex unions—even the open celebration of homosexual activity. All of this harms children grievously, by shredding the family—the very institution that needs to be strong so as to raise them well.
Euthanasia is also back in the news, and polygamy seems to be on the horizon.
So here we are today in a culture of rebellion. And, sadly, too many in the Church (even among the clergy and Church hierarchy) are bewitched, succumbing to false compassion.
But lest we become like Elijah in the cave, discouraged and edging toward despair, we ought to hear again the words of God to Elijah: I have seven thousand in Israel that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal.
God has a way of working with remnants in order to rebuild His Kingdom. Mysteriously, He allows a kind of pruning, a falling away of what He calls the cowards (e.g., Judges 7:3, Rev 21:8). But with those who are left, He can effect a great victory.
Consider that, at the foot of the cross, only one bishop (i.e., one priest, one man) had the courage to be there. Only four or five women had such courage. But Jesus was there. And with a remnant, a mere fraction of His followers, He won thorough to the end.
Are you praying with me? Stay firm; stay confident; do not despair. There are seven thousand who have not bent the knee to the Baals of this age. With a small group, the Lord can win through to the end. Are you among the seven thousand? Or do the Baals hold some of your allegiance? Where do you stand?
Elijah was reminded that he was not alone. As I hear of the faith of so many of you readers, I remember, too, that I am not alone. When I hear the “Amens” in my congregation as I preach the Old Time Religion, I remember that I am not alone. There are many good souls still to be found. Seek them out; build alliances and stand ready to resist, to fight the coming and already-present onslaughts.
I am not sure of the ultimate fate of Western culture (frankly, it doesn’t look good). I am not sure if these are the end times or just the end of an era. But of this I am sure: Jesus wins and so do all who stand with Him and persevere to the end. Get up, Elijah. Go prophesy, even if you are killed for it. Keep preaching until the last soul is converted.