Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Little Something Extra...Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Recognizing God

Do you recognize God's voice when He speaks to you? 

Elijah did in today's First Reading. The prophet had fled from the wrath of Queen Jezebel. He was tired and discouraged and pretty much wanted to die, but he still obeyed when God told him to go stand on Mount Horeb and wait for Him to pass by. 

Elijah was a wise man, even in his depression. He stood still and watched as a strong wind came up and smashed rocks, but he knew that God wasn't in that wind. He remained in place as an earthquake rattled the mountain around him, but he knew that God wasn't in that earthquake. He bravely endured as a fire swept by, but he knew that God wasn't in that fire. 

Then Elijah heard a still, small voice. He pulled his mantle over his face and went to stand at the entrance of the cave. The prophet recognized God in that still, small voice. He had courageously watched and waited during the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. He had overcome his fear, knowing that God would not let him down, no matter how bad things seemed or how scared he was, and now he received his reward. He heard God, and he recognized His voice.

Notice what Elijah did when he heard and recognized God. He pulled his mantle over his face in a gesture of humility and reverence. He understood that the still, small voice he was hearing was the all-powerful Creator of the universe. He realized that, as a sinful, weak human being, he wasn't worthy to hear God, so he covered his face. God, of course, spoke to him anyway, for He reaches out to the weakest, most sinful people in order to draw them into a relationship with Him and raise them up. 

Pay attention also to Elijah's second action. He went and stood at the entrance of the cave from which he had been waiting, watching, and listening. This is a gesture of readiness. He is prepared to listen to God and obey His command, whatever that may be. Elijah presents himself as God's servant, ready to interact with God and to act on God's words. 

Now let's consider the disciples' response to Jesus in today's Gospel.

Jesus had sent the disciples off in their boat while He went up on the mountain to pray. In the wee hours of the morning, as a strong wind tossed the boat around and threatened to swamp it, Jesus came walking toward the disciples on the water. 

When the disciples saw Him, they were terrified. They didn't recognize Him at all. Instead of seeing Him as the calm in the midst of the storm, they panicked and cried out in fear that they were seeing a ghost. They were so focused on the chaos around them that they couldn't see Jesus for Who He was. 

Jesus was quick to announce Himself and reassure them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter, quite in character, called back, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” What was he expecting? Did he believe that he was seeing some apparition who wouldn't take him up on the challenge and would simply go away? Or had Jesus mostly convinced him of His identity, giving Peter the opportunity to present himself as ready for anything his Lord might request?

Perhaps to Peter's surprise, Jesus replied, “Come.” Peter bolstered up his courage and went. He had the gumption to step out in faith even in the midst of what seemed like an impossible situation. He had now recognized Jesus and responded, and he found himself walking on water.

Then he noticed the wind and the waves. His faith wavered. His courage failed. He began to sink. At least he had the presence of mind to call out to Jesus. “Lord, save me!” he shrieked, recognizing that in the midst of such terror and danger, Jesus was indeed the only One Who could save him. And Jesus did so. Immediately. He reached out and grabbed Peter and led him back to the boat to the rest of the disciples who were probably sitting there gaping like fish. 

If the disciples hadn't known before that there was something very special about Jesus, they certainly realized it now. In fact, they seem to have recognized something divine in Jesus, for they bowed down before Him, saying “Truly, You are the Son of God.”

Do you recognize God's voice when He speaks to you?

No comments:

Post a Comment