ORDINARY 19 (A)
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. – I Kings 19: 12
Elijah is at his wit’s end. Let’s hear the story in his own words. When God asked what he was doing at Mt. Horeb (another name for Sinai), he replied,
“I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, & put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, & they seek to take my life” (I Kings 19: 10).
It’s no wonder he was really low, & I suspect many of us can identify with him. Gas prices keep climbing. Daily revelations of corruption in the corporate, sports, political & professional worlds are numbingly common place. The vulgarity & sleaziness of the media disgust us. Thus subconsciously burdened, we feel an unspoken unease as we go about our lives.
Then there are our personal lives which force us to brood with Elijah. There are those who have suffered loss, the loss of a child or spouse through death. The loss from divorce. The loss of physical or mental health. The loss of a job or an opportunity. The loss of virtue. Loneliness. Betrayals & disappointments, addictions, & simply spiritual flatness plague many. Some people are sick & tired of being sick & tired. We all have Elijah moments. So let’s look at his story to see what we can learn.
The first thing we learn is the value of solitude, the times when one is forced by circumstances “to be still,” to regroup & recover, to listen to the Lord. One of Grace Noel Crowell’s poems speaks of these bleak moments in life as a reservoir that needs filling up just like a slow rain fills an empty cup: “Hold your cup, dear child, for God to fill. He only asks today that you be still.”
For those of us who are hurting, grieving, in sorrow, or just struggling with something, the poem says we need to sit awhile & rest. Little by little, let our dry reservoirs fill up again. Stop trying to control & be still.
Second, be alert to the little signs: summer, spring, flower, a kindness. Here’s an example:
A pagan thinker of some note, a man with a reputation of some fame, yet he’s unhappy. His life is a shambles, his religious doubts are plaguing him, his personal life is a disaster. His relationships – with the woman he is living with & his illegitimate child – are strained to the breaking point. He’s depressed. To throw him into further despair, he’s just received news that two common Roman soldiers had converted to the Christian faith. Here these ignorant soldiers have found something & they are happy while he, Augustine, the great intellect, is in a terrible depressed state. Dejected, he goes into his garden & just sits. Great man that he is, he puts his head in his hands & simply weeps. Then he hears a small voice saying, “Take & read, take & read,” on the other side of the garden fence.
So in a half daze, he goes inside & picks up the Christian Bible & finds these words: “Not in rioting & drunkenness, not in chambering & wantonness, not in strife & envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Prompted by a child’s voice, he had found a new direction for his life.
So in bad times, be still. Maybe bad times are a sign that we’re running on empty & simply need to hold up our empty hearts to God to be refilled. Then, notice the little signs. Shortly, when I lift up the paten & chalice during the consecration, say in your heart: “I’m placing Mary or John on this paten & in this chalice. May they too be lifted up to God.” Or when you approach for communion, bring someone in your heart with you. Let them share, as it were, in the bread of life, the sign that they are not alone. Strengthened by this knowledge, maybe they too will walk forty days & forty nights to the mountain of God like Elijah did. AMEN!