Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A August 13, 2017

In our second reading today, from St Paul to the Romans, St Paul reveals that he has a problem.  He states: “I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; … that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.”   A bit melodramatically St Paul even states: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ..”  WHY?   “… for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.”
          You see, many of St. Paul’s own people, that is, the Jews, or “Israelites” as St. Paul calls them, did not recognize, nor believe in, Jesus as the Messiah.  They did not have faith.  And this upset St. Paul.
          We may not be quite so melodramatic as was St. Paul, but still, plenty of believers do have sorrow and anguish in their hearts for the sake of their own people, their kindred according to the flesh, who do not practice any religion.  Many of us have siblings, or parents, or children, or a spouse, or good friends and neighbors, who have no interest in religion.  They often are not hostile to religion, but they have no felt need for the benefits of religion, and no interest in participating in any religious activity.
          Many parents have the regret, the heartache, of having striven to give a good example of living the faith to their children, of sending them to Catholic School or to religious education, of driving them to Confirmation classes, dragging them to church every Sunday, only to have the child cease any religious activity, except maybe for Christmas and Easter with the parents, once the child is on their own and able to make their own decisions. 
          Often, these loved ones are not mad or angry or hostile to the church and religion.  It is just that they have no felt need for what we offer.  And for those of us who do find joy and peace and a sense of purpose and meaning in our religion, it is a great sorrow that those we love apparently do not experience these graces. 
          And so we can identify with St. Paul in his “great sorrow and constant anguish in (his) heart.”  
          I believe however that we can take some consolation from our first reading today.  I find it a mysterious but attractive reading.  The Prophet Elijah has gone to the mountain of God, Horeb.  This is the exact same mountain where Moses received the tablets of the Law, Mt. Sinai.  Mt Sinai and Mt Horeb are two names for the same place, like “Town Lake” and “Lady Bird Lake” are two names for the same body of water, which is really the Colorado River.   
          What was Elijah doing way down there in the Sinai Peninsula?  // He was running for his life!  He had angered the wicked queen Jezebel, and she was out to have him killed.  So he ran.  And Mt. Horeb – Mt. Sinai is where he was hiding out.  By this time Elijah is tired, afraid, disgusted, dejected and ready to give up.  So God is going to strengthen Elijah by revealing God’s presence to Elijah. 

A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind. 
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire. 
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. 
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak.

[Pause]    Perhaps some of our loved ones who seem to not have the gift of Faith are looking in all the wrong places:  in the heavy, rock-crushing wind; in earthquakes; in fire; and in other spectacular and dramatic signs and events.  But that is not where Elijah experienced God, and often that is true for us and our loved ones as well.
          We find God rather in the tiny whispering sound.  The sound of our own longings and desires, the subtle sound of our greatest hopes that we are afraid even to admit; of the impossible dream of a universe that is not only intelligent and purposeful but that loves us deeply and dearly, of an infinite destiny where Love is all. 
          That “tiny whispering sound” is often our lived example.  Not dramatic, flashy, attention-grabbing Bible waving and Hosanna-shouting, but our example of quiet, consistent, faithful living witness.
And when they are ready, they will hear.

          God bless!  

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