Watching TV news reports night after night can lead us into despondency to the point where we might lose our faith in the basic goodness in our world that seems to be buried alive in the tidal waves of the evils that are reported. Over and over again we are confronted by the actions and inactions of our government in Washington. Instead of concrete corrections we hear nothing but the blame game going on between our nation’s leaders. Added to that are the endless reports of violence in our cities, the horrors inflicted by terrorists in the Middle East, the sufferings of children from Latin America that are crossing our borders in order to escape the violence they face caused by the drug lords in their home countries, and the sufferings of people in the Ukraine. I could go on and on but won’t. We know we’re drowning in chaos. We know we are carrying huge burdens.
“Where is God in the midst of all of this?” some ask.
On this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we find the Old Testament prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:9, 11-13) in a state of despondency. Three days prior to the episode we just now heard in today’s first reading he was so miserable that he asked God to let him die. We find him here in this reading hiding in a cave, seeking shelter in solid rock. But just as he finds shelter in a cave along comes an earthquake and then a hurricane of a storm that smashes the rocks and cliffs of the mountains, threatening to drown him in chaos.
“Where is God in all of this?” he was asking. What is God saying to me in all of these events? Elijah, however, couldn’t figure anything out until he was able to hear the voice of God in a tiny little whisper. The voice of God came to him in the most unexpected of ways. And so it is with us.
The disciples and Peter (Mt 14:22-23) found themselves to be in similar circumstances, only this time out in an open boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm. “Where is God in all of this?” they wondered. Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, if it’s really you over there tell me to come to you across the water.” Peter, we see, had his doubts.
We find our own lives these days surrounded by chaos. The floodwaters of social change along with the cultural earthquakes of our times, globalization, terrorism, and the energy crisis severely threaten us. Only one in four of our nation’s households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together in the same home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, traditional homes. Indeed the very definition of the so-called normal family is at issue. What do we mean by the term “normal family”? A recent newspaper article dumbs everything down and defines family as: “The we around me.” What, I ask, has that anything to do with being family?
Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable economy, job loss, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the storms and floodwaters that threaten us. Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex, violence, and lust for money assault the moral characters of our youngsters, washing away the levees that protect what we have regarded in the past as the terra firma, the solid ground of normalcy.
Teenage suicide is frequently reported; teen gangs and drug gangs roam our city streets at will, while our metropolitan law enforcement agencies operate in apparent powerlessness to take back control of our cities from the pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and gangs that control the streets of our major cities.
“Where is God in all of this?” we cry.
Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today. Confidence. Confidence comes from a Latin word; it means, “to believe with”. We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s an Other near us, the Other that is God.
And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of times. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you if only you keep up your contact with God. No prayer? No confidence. Stop coming to Mass? No confidence. Not sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you will sink. Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds in or world that shake the very foundations of your life. And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, we, like Peter, will either be blown away or drown.
Is your life getting out of control? Is your faith slipping away from you? Are you experiencing more and more powerlessness in the chaos that surrounds you? If so, here’s what you do. Find a place of solitude and silence. Go to your room, shut your door and gather around you as much silence and solitude as you possibly can. Then kneel down by your bedside and in that silence and in that solitude say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” If you do that, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Elijah was. Look into the eyes of Jesus, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Peter was.
Never forget, after all was said and done, God restored Elijah in power, and eventually swept him up into heaven. And after all was said and done God in Christ saved Peter, saved him even from himself.
And God will do no less for us, if and only if we give our confidence to Christ and remain faithful to our Father in Him. And I’d suspect that a whole lot of people living amidst violence and chaos would tell us just that, facing as they have the much different and far more destructive floodwaters that we face here.
The real question, you see is not “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?”
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light, Jesus said. For that to happen, for our hearts to be filled with courage, fortitude, and boldness, we need to be yoked to Christ so that He can, along with us, pull our load through life.
May you be filled with that confidence.