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Old Versus New

First Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39

Ahab sent to all the children of Israel
and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel.

Elijah appealed to all the people and said,
“How long will you straddle the issue?
If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.”
The people, however, did not answer him.
So Elijah said to the people,
“I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD,
and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.
Give us two young bulls.
Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood,
but start no fire.
I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood,
but shall start no fire.
You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD.
The God who answers with fire is God.”
All the people answered, “Agreed!”

Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal,
“Choose one young bull and prepare it first,
for there are more of you.
Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.”
Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it
and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying,
“Answer us, Baal!”
But there was no sound, and no one answering.
And they hopped around the altar they had prepared.
When it was noon, Elijah taunted them:
“Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating,
or may have retired, or may be on a journey.
Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears,
as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.
Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state
until the time for offering sacrifice.
But there was not a sound;
no one answered, and no one was listening.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.”
When the people had done so, he repaired the altar of the LORD
that had been destroyed.
He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob,
to whom the LORD had said, “Your name shall be Israel.”
He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones,
and made a trench around the altar
large enough for two measures of grain.
When he had arranged the wood,
he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood.
“Fill four jars with water,” he said,
“and pour it over the burnt offering and over the wood.”
“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he said,
and they did it a third time.
The water flowed around the altar,
and the trench was filled with the water.

At the time for offering sacrifice,
the prophet Elijah came forward and said,
“LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
let it be known this day that you are God in Israel
and that I am your servant
and have done all these things by your command.
Answer me, LORD!
Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God
and that you have brought them back to their senses.”
The LORD’s fire came down
and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust,
and it lapped up the water in the trench.
Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said,
“The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16:1B-2AB, 4, 5AB AND 8, 11

R. (1b) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
They multiply their sorrows
who court other gods.
Blood libations to them I will not pour out,
nor will I take their names upon my lips.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
O LORD, my allotted portion and cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

NAB

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Sometimes the world seems full of contrasts: old versus new, death versus life, or body versus soul.  There’s a human tendency to divide and thus to conquer, thinking that one half of any pair is more important—or just plain better—than the other.

Today’s Gospel passage challenges this notion, specifically when it comes to the contrast of old with new.  Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.” He is not a shiny new thing that will replace what is old. Instead, He will take what already exists and bring it to a fullness it hasn’t known before. Old is not worse than new; both coexist, and Jesus’ followers can only truly understand Him by understanding him within the context of what came before. You can’t separate one from the other.

This, in fact, is a recurring theme of our Christian faith: that we need to look beyond the simple dualistic categories to something much richer. We see this idea over and over. We see it in the person of Jesus Christ, who is both God and man in the same being. We see this in the Resurrection, where death leads to life. We experience it in the Mass and the Sacraments, where the actions of our bodies help open our souls to God. Over and over, Jesus invites us to crack open our thinking and reject the easy out. Life isn’t a simple either/or, He seems to say; often, it’s both/and. And if we follow Jesus’ lead and broaden our vision, we will find ourselves not at a dead-end, but where the Psalmist promises: on the path of life.

Is there an area of your life that you are treating as an either/or instead of a both/and? Pray for a spirit of discernment here.

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos.  You can find out more about her here

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