I had a wonderful discussion of Elijah’s journey to Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 19) with St. Augustine Academy students. You never know where discussions will lead, and what students will come up with, if you can get students to talk, if you can stand letting them talk, if you follow up what interests them while not losing sight of the central parts of the reading.
While having them recount the episode (which can often be discouraging, since you find how many of them either didn’t read the assignment, or did it with little attention), one student asked, “Is it right for Elijah to ask God to let him die?” Debating that for awhile drew our attention to Elijah’s intense discouragement (well expressed in this homily by a Malaysian priest who knows about broom trees — which another student asked about, but I didn’t know the answer to at the time). This opened up the question, “How did God respond to Elijah’s prayer to die?”
The lesson we learned: If you find yourself at 50 or 60 years old, having spent your life being jealous for the Lord and His Church, seeing the complete failure of all you tried to do, alone in the wilderness starving, pray to God to die. And He will send an angel to feed you, and tell you, “Your journey has only begun,” and will send you to His holy mountain, where He will reveal His inner nature to you, and give you a whole new mission, to prepare for something greater than you ever dreamed.
Along the way, one student had us start to compare Elijah’s experience on the mountain with Moses’ at Sinai (Exodus 19), and another student pointed out something I think may be crammed with mystical significance, “The Lord only passed by in the wind and the earthquake and the fire, but he was found in the still, small voice.”
I wonder what our next discussion will bring.