Homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel July 16, 2009
IIn the 9th Century B.C., Israel was divided into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom was threatened by constant war with the Philistines. King Omri arranged a marriage between
his son Ahab and Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Sidon in Phonecia and a priestess of Baal. She introduced worship of Baal and Asherah into Israel and brought with her an entourage of false prophets. The worship of these false gods involved sexual immorality and human sacrifice. Ahab and Jezebel also sought to move the center of worship away from Jerusalem. Jezebel also had the prophets of Israel murdered.
Ahab’s reign thus far had been a time of peace and prosperity in Israel. Ahab established peace with Judah. Elijah warns Ahab that God plan to punish Israel for their sins of idolatry with a drought so severe that not even dew will fall.
There was a terrible drought for three years. Elijah approaches King Ahab who was seeking to arrest him. King Ahab calls Elijah “a disturber of Israel”. Elijah answers that Ahab is responsible for what has befallen Israel because of his idolatry. Elijah promises him that the Lord will provide rain if Ahab he turned away the worship of false gods.
To prove that the Lord is the true God Elijah challenged Ahab to assemble the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to a contest on Mount Carmel.
Elijah implored the people of Israel "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. (1 King 18, 21)
Elijah then challenged the false prophets to a contest. Two altars were prepared with wood and two young bulls. Elijah challenged them to call on their gods and Elijah would call on the name of the Lord. The God who answered with fire was God. Everyone agreed
The false prophets called on their god for hours, hopped around the altar, cut themselves, but Baal was silent. Elijah mocked 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."
Before Elijah began his prayer he told the people to drench his sacrifice three times with water. Elijah then called on the name of the Lord and the holocaust was consumed. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"
Elijah then had the prophets of Baal executed and rain began to fall. The miracle failed to inspire the people of Israel to overthrow Jezebel who wants revenge. Jezebel vows to have Elijah killed, but Elijah was able to escape.
Hermits lived on Mount Carmel since the 12th century near the Cave of Elijah. They dedicated a chapel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and became known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” Pope Honorius approved the rule given by Saint Albert Patriarch of Jerusalem for this new order. The Carmelite Constitution of 1281 claimed that both Jewish and Christian hermits had lived holy and penitent lives there since the time of Elijah.
A Carmelite branch for women began in 1492 by the General of the Order Blessed John Soreth. In 1562, St. Theresa of Avila founded a monastery in Avila Spain from which she led a reform of the order aided by St. John of the Cross.
In 1254, St. Simon Stock was elected Superior-General of the Carmelite Order in London. As a young man he took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined the hermits on Mount Carmel. He then returned to Europe and founded Carmelite communities in University towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. St. Simon helped to change the Carmelites from a hermit order to one of mendicant friars.
Like the other mendicant orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Carmelites were under attack as being too radical. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon on July 16, 1251. As he gave him a brown scapular she said "Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection."
A scapular consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders. Over the years the Church has encouraged all Catholics to wear a scapular that is usually worn under one’s clothing. Pope John Paul II revealed that he wore one. There is an investiture ceremony that should be done by a priest.
One of the conditions of Our Lady for the fulfillment of the promises associated the scapular (the Sabbatine privilege) is to observe chastity according to one’s state of life. That will be different for a married person than someone who is single.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an antidote for the culture of death today. On Mount Carmel Elijah called the people of Israel to abandon the worship of false gods and the associated sexual immorality and human sacrifice associated with it.
In many ways the United States and Europe are like Israel in the times of Elijah. Compared to former times we live in an age of peace and prosperity, but many abandoned the worship of the true God and follow false gods of materialism, pleasure, absolute personal autonomy.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel calls us to stop straddling the issue of who is the real God. We cannot have one foot in the culture of death that tolerates the killing of unborn children by abortion and other attacks on life, chastity and the family and be a true Christian.
Please join me in praying the following to Our Lady of Mount Carmel for an end to the culture of death in the United States and throughout the world:
O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein that you are my Mother. O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity; there are none that can withstand your power. O show me herein that you are my Mother. Our Lady, Queen and beauty of Carmel, pray for me and obtain my requests. Sweet Mother, I place this cause into your hands.
Posted by Fr. Peter West at 1:51 PM