The readings from 1 Kings are one of my favorites because it takes me back to my senior year in high school. I went on a retreat and had what I would call my first real experience of the presence of God. I was sitting out in the woods that surrounded the retreat center on an early spring morning. Everything was so quiet. I could actually hear the melting mid-March snow. Then, a slight breeze began to move the pine trees and the bows began to gently rub together, and in that soft whisper of a wind, the presence of God came over me.
When Elijah went to seek a manifestation of the Lord, a theophany, he went into the mountains, probably because the majesty of mountains has moved the hearts of many to thoughts of things bigger than themselves. He stood out on the mountain awaiting God to show himself. There was a strong wind that crushed the rocks around him. What an awesome and fearful thing that must have been. Then the earth shook under the might of an earthquake. I can imagine Elijah being knocked to the ground. Following the earthquake there came a fire. Fire can be awe inspiring in its dual nature of being beautiful, warming and yet a most destructive, powerful force of nature.
God was not to be seen in any of the loud, powerful, fear inspiring events on the mountain. Elijah, picking himself up and regaining his composure then heard a tiny whispering sound, and in that small whisper, Elijah encountered the almighty God.
Matthew tells of a similar incident in the life of Jesus and the apostles. Out on the sea of Galilee, the apostles are caught in a nasty storm. Their boat is being tossed about and these fishermen who made their living out on the water are fearful. That must have been quite a storm to frighten these guys. Jesus comes out, walking over the rough water to the boat. The apostles recognize him when he speaks. Peter, as he is known to do, is full of a sudden rash of enthusiasm and jumps out of the boat and begins to walk across the water to Jesus. Rough waves and powerful winds soon conquer his faith and he began to sink, only to be saved by Jesus reaching down to him. What happens next? The water calms. Jesus is in the boat with the apostles and the gospel tells us that they acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God and did him homage.
The two stories have a common theme. The apostles found the Son of God in the calming of the storm. Elijah found God in a tiny whisper. God did not manifest himself in power and awe. That is how God works in our lives. If he were always revealing himself in power, how much easier would it be to believe? God wants us to know him in hour hearts, and to find him there, we need to sit in silence and wait for the whisper.
These readings are very timely for our country today. We are experiencing worldly powers that are frightening many people. The Earthquake of violent protests. The fire of hatred burning bright in our divided nation, a fire that is consuming our souls and making us blind to the whisper of God in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we disagree. We fan the strong wind that rends the rocks of unity in our nation and in our Church with rhetoric that only shows our disdain and disrespect for another point of view. We let fear toss our boat along aimlessly on the sea of negative news, social media shaming, finger pointing and accusations.
So how do we over come this and find God? As I reflected on these readings, I was overcome by a deep sense of joy and peace. How can I experience joy and peace in these troubled times? By keeping my focus on Jesus, who reaches down to pull us all, you and me, out from the troubled waters and brings us into his boat which can only by the nature of his being in it, be set upon calm and gentle waters. Living an authentic and holy life will bring you the peace of Christ. Being holy is simply following God’s will for your life. If you sincerely seek God’s will and sincerely try to follow it, you will have peace. “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19) Jesus wants us to be at peace. Take some time and tune out the stormy news and social media that is disrupting your inner peace. Find a quiet place to sit and let your mind focus on Jesus. After all, how can we be instruments of peace unless we first have peace in our hearts?