One feature of the prophets was their condemnation of the abuse of the weak (cf. Is 5:8–24; Amos 2:6–16; etc.), just as it is part of the Church’s prophetic mission to stand up for human rights: “Respect for the human entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights, and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1930).
The great prophet Elijah burns with zeal for the Lord. Unfortunately, his zeal is mixed with a good deal of anger. The Lord doesn’t directly reprove or punish Elijah for his excessive anger, but with the teaching about the “still small voice,” and the Lord’s question, “Elijah, why are you here?” we can understand that Elijah has not yet completed his inner-journey. The Lord instructs him to return and prepare the next generation of leadership, it is time for Elijah to think about what comes next and bring new purpose to why he is here.
In the time of Elijah, the people of Israel were again turning from the commandments of God. Not that they had a problem with the Lord – of course not – the God of Israel is just fine with them. What they weren’t interested in was having to choose exclusively one God to worship. The pagans offered a variety of rites and gods – especially one named Baal who was particularly concerned with storms. This Baal had clearly not been doing much because there was a severe drought. Elijah told everyone that the drought was caused by the Lord, but they weren’t ready to turn away completely from the foreign Baals and back to him. Elijah tells them they are “straddling” the issue – but the word also means that they are limping around. The same word comes back to describe the ceremony performed by the priests of Baal – limping around and crying out to Baal. That would make them appear unfit to offer the true cult to the true God – and would make it seem that the people of Israel have become just as unfit to worship the true God by their wishy-washy straddling of the issue: is the Lord the true God or not?