Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
August 7, 2011
Perhaps some of you have traveled to the mountains this summer, or in past years. I love the mountains. They fascinate me. I look at them, and I just want to say, “Good job, God.” Sometimes I feel that the power and strength of a mountain represents God watching over His world.
Elijah went to a mountain to look for God. The particular mountain he went to was the mountain of the Lord, Horeb. This mountain was also called Mt. Sinai. You remember Sinai. That was the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Remember how Sinai was presented in the Book of Exodus:
And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.”
It was on Mt. Sinai, Mt. Horeb, that Moses received the Ten Commandments, written, as Exodus says, with the finger of God. This was the mountain that Elijah was on in the first reading for this Sunday. Elijah was had been told by a voice to go “and present yourself on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord will be passing by.” Elijah went and waited for the awe inspiring presence of God. As he must have expected there was a huge wind that threw boulders around like pebbles. But Elijah, the prophet of supreme faith, did not sense the presence of the Lord in the wind. Then there was an earthquake. But Elijah’s faith told him that the Lord was not in the earthquake. Fire followed, perhaps started by lava flowing through the fissures caused by the earthquake, perhaps due to volcanic activity. We all know how powerful a raging fire is. But Elijah’s faith told him that the Lord was not in the fire. Then there was a tiny whispering sound. That voice was the voice of the Lord. It was more powerful than wind, earthquake or fire. That voice was the voice of faith.
Sometimes we look for the Lord with pre-conceived notions of how He should appear. We expect to find God in powerful manifestation of His presence. Sometimes we are so concerned with finding Him in a mighty display of natural events that we miss His presence in the quiet whispering voice of faith. We seek the Lord in powerful miracles, and we miss hearing His voice in our children, family and church community. Perhaps, we have to stop determining how God should be and simply be open to His presence wherever He is, in others and even in ourselves. We have to let God be God: mysterious, loving, present in more ways than we could ever understand.
You often hear people say, “I come to Church, but I get nothing out of it.” Maybe we have all said that at times, or at least felt that way. Perhaps the problem is that we are deciding how God should be present instead of opening ourselves to however He is manifesting Himself. Maybe we are looking for feelings of spiritual satisfaction. But, perhaps, today God might not be in the fire, or in warm fuzzies. Maybe we are seeking an answer to one of our problems. But, perhaps, today the Lord might not be in the earthquake, or in instant solutions to our
difficulties. Maybe we are looking for a new insight into our lives, but perhaps today the Lord may not be in the wind breaking the boulders of our self-perception. But the Lord is still here. He is always with us. We might not know where, but He is here. For there is a small voice that says He is the reason for everything around us in Church and in our world, from the crucifix over the altar to the Word of God proclaimed, to the Eucharist we share, to the blessing we ask for over our food, to the evening prayers we say and the bedtime prayers with the children, to the wonders of every person God has ever created, and the beauty of his babies, to the marvels of nature. Everything radiates the Presence of God. He is within each of us loving us as individuals and uniting us into the community of love. If we come to Mass
and claim we are not getting anything out of it, if we go through life claiming that we cannot find God, it is because we are looking for God where we expect Him to be, not where He is.
How is it that Elijah heard the tiny whispering sound in the middle of the roar of the wind, the crashing of rocks, the earthquake? He settled himself down; he suppressed his own expectations, and he let God speak to Him as God chose to speak to Him.
There is noise around us. We are so accustomed to it that we don’t even notice it. We may be living near a busy road, but we tend to tune out the traffic. We even are able to tune out the Loud Family that lives next door to us. We tend to tune out the external noise, but we don’t make as much of an effort to tune out the internal noise. We let our thoughts ramble in prayer. We let our minds fly attempting to solve a problem. We need to quiet ourselves down. We need to free ourselves for quiet time. This is more than freedom from external noise. We need to allow ourselves to experience internal quiet and peace that comes from being in the Presence of God.
That is the simple message of today’s first reading. God is present for each of us. He speaks to each of us. We just need to do a better job listening to Him.
1 Kings 19:12-13
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 and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
The readings today help us recognize the gifts we have been given and the responsibility we have to give them to others. The first reading is from the second section of the Prophet Isaiah often referred to as the Book of Comfort. Come to the water, you who are thirsty. Come eat you who are hungry. The greatest happiness in God’s creation is given to us freely. But we have to come and drink, come and eat. The second reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, tells us that no one and nothing can take this Source of Life from us. “What can separate us from the love of Christ? Anguish, or persecution, or nakedness, or famine or the sword. Nothing can take Christ from us. We alone can reject Him.
We are called as Christian to come and eat, come and drink. We are told to guard against those forces within us and around us which would destroy the Presence of the Lord. So we do all this, and then we are told, “My gifts are not for you alone.” The people are hungry and thirsty. Give them what you have to drink and eat.” It is here that we realize that our responsibility to stay united to the Lord has a deeper dimension then our own needs. We need to be united to the Lord out of a responsibility to the spiritual lives of others.
Parents know this so well. They know that when they brought children into the world or into their homes they no longer had the luxury of being concerned only with their own spiritual lives. They now had the obligation of leading their children to the Lord. In fact, leading their children to Christ became an essential element of their own spirituality. They looked at their lives and eliminated anything that would prevent them from bringing Christ to their children.
We need to realize that the presence of the Lord is not ours to hoard. He is given to us so that we can bring His Love to others. Therefore, some of the things we do, some of the places we go, some of the things we say, all have to be eliminated not just for our own good, but for the good of those to whom the Lord is sending us.
There is a profound liturgical action that takes place at the ordination of a deacon. After the bishop lays his hands on the candidate and says the prayer of ordination, and after the deacon is vested, the bishop hands the new deacon the Book of the Gospels and says, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” No one can proclaim the gospel unless he believes in the gospel and lives these gospel beliefs. This is emphasized in the ordination of deacons, but it is fundamental to all Christians, ordained or laity. Everyone here is called by Christ to proclaim His Gospel. All of us are empowered to do this. All of us are sustained in this mission particularly through the gifts of the Eucharist and the guidance of our Mother Mary.
We experience the need of others. We recognize our emptiness, our inability to help. We go to the Lord, and he gives us the ability to provide. This is the good news, the Gospel. For nothing can prevent us from being united to the One who provides for us.
How beautifully positive the readings are for today. God will always provide. We have only to go to Him, stay united to Him, and we will receive bread for His people.
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 7, 2011
Walking on the Water
One of the most famous stories of the New Testament is the one about Jesus walking on the water. If there is any gospel story we never tire of hearing, this is it.
The lake is rough. Though several of the apostles spent most of their life in a boat, they’re still worried. But when they see a phantom walking towards them on the whitecaps, they get really scared. The figure speaks and they recognize a familiar voice–it is the Lord!
Those who trust God
The power of nature is awesome, and sometimes frightening. Television provides us with vivid images of the destruction from tornadoes, floods, earth-quakes and tsunamis. And even if you’ve never been through a tornado or a hurricane or a flood, you’ve seen pictures of the havoc one of them can cause.
How much more frightening it must be to be in a small craft when a storm arises!
The Prayer of Helplessness
“But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:30-31).
In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day shares how she once prayed at a very low time in her life.
In Stillness and Silence: 19th Sunday
Life as an Apostle of Jesus was certainly very eventful even dangerous. One minute John the Baptist is executed, right after that they are feeding the five thousand and before much longer Jesus hustles them into the boat and they find themselves out on the lake in a very rough sea.
Fortitude“Lord, save me.” Peter, frightened by the wind and the waves, cries out desperately for help in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter fourteen, verses twenty-two to thirty-three. Christ had granted Peter the power to walk on the water, but giving in to his fear, the apostle had begun to sink. “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
God’s Action and Human Freedom
The Lord sometimes invites us to see his glory in a powerful way, but we hesitate and balk before this invitation. We see all the problems, all the hunger, and we ask Him to make them go away. He sees those He loves and his heart aches for them. He commands, what seems to be from our limited human perspective, the impossible, “Feed them yourselves.”
The Problems of Free Will, Evil, and Hell
Today, I want to talk about probably the three most important interrelated problems facing Christianity: the problem of free will, the problem of evil, and the problem of Hell. These are not only the issues which drive people away from Christianity, but they’re issues which have divided even Christians, with some Christians denying that free will even exists, while others deny the reality of Hell..
What Difference Does Heaven Make?
If a thing makes no difference, it is a waste of time to think about it. We should begin, then, with the question, What difference does Heaven make to earth, to now, to our lives?
Only the difference between hope and despair in the end, between two totally different visions of life; between “chance or the dance”. At death we find out which vision is true: does it all go down the drain in the end, or are all the loose threads finally tied together into a gloriously perfect tapestry? Do the tangled paths through the forest of life lead to the golden castle or over the cliff and into the abyss? Is death a door or a hole?
Doing Good, and Avoiding Evil
Pope Paul VI often commented that the Gospel passage on the weeds and wheat (Matthew 13: 24-30) had proven the most difficult for him to understand. Why does God allow the weeds and the wheat to grow together? Why does God allow evil to co-exist with good?
What Does Evangelization Look Like?
When we think of evangelization there is a danger that we think first of biggie-wow projects, committees, and Church-wide efforts. Surely these are needed. The Church at the highest levels needs to expand our outreach in all the new media and re-propose the Gospel in creative and ever-widening ways. The same is true at diocesan and parish levels, where coordinated, thoughtful and intentional efforts are made to expand the Kingdom of God.
But don’t miss the little and daily ways that evangelization must first take place.
The Secret of True Happiness
Fr Michael died well. As a Benedictine monk, he’d led a life of great dedication to the people he served, combined with a traditional piety that gave him a firm foundation. He died surrounded by his brethren and fortified by the rites of the Church. His was a happy death.
Archbishop Chaput: Effective Church reform demands repentance, faith
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver said that true reform of the Church requires deep faith and repentance from all members of the faith, including clergy, religious and laity alike.
“Renewal begins not in vilifying others, but in examining ourselves honestly, repenting of our own sins, and changing ourselves,” the archbishop said.
Objections to the Catholic interpretation of John 6 answered
We have spoken before about why we should read John chapter 6 literally when Jesus says eat my flesh and drink my blood. Here are some objections that are brought up concerning this interpretation.
So what are some objections to the Catholic view of – eat my flesh and drink my blood as interpreted literally.
What every Catholic needs to know about witnessing your faith at work
I had been working for two years in my first job out of college. I was a computer programmer, and, as someone who converted to Catholicism in college, this was my first taste of living my Catholic faith in the “real world.” I tried to be a good witness to the faith — working hard, being punctual and honest and controlling my tongue. But I was disappointed that I never really had conversations about Catholicism with any of my co-workers.
The Real Population Bomb
In 1968, Stanford biologist Paul R. Erlich opened his bestselling book, “The Population Bomb,” with this declaration: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can be done to prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate….”
Erlich’s doomsday scenarios never came true.
The Real Pius XII
In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain published a book stating that anti-Semitism had become a “pathological phenomenon.”
Maritain’s warning was welcomed by concerned believers, and even the secular press. The New York Times praised Maritain’s insight that “hatred of Jews and hatred of Christians spring from a common source; and the same men who began persecuting Jews are now persecuting Christians, and more or less for the same reason.”
Evangelical Convert: Richard Maffeo
Richard was born into a Jewish home in 1950. Twenty-two years later, he discovered Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and served Him in evangelical Protestant churches for more than thirty-two years. In 2005 he was received into the Catholic Church.
My movement in 1972 from Jewish faith to Christ was so profound an experience, I can tell you when it happened, where I was and what I was doing when I committed myself to the Lord and joined the Protestant church.
Why is there a Giant Obelisk in the Vatican?
Hidden among the paving stones of St. Peter’s Square there is a simple clock and calendar. All you need is a sunny day.
The 83-foot stone obelisk in the middle of the square acts as a sundial that can accurately indicate midday and the two solstices thanks to a granite meridian and marble markers embedded in the square.
“One day, my table will be clear. Just a vase of flowers on it!” I recall muttering to myself.
Toys, textbooks, makeup, and sports gear always littered the tabletop. Why can’t the girls go to their rooms to paint their fingernails? I remember thinking, my eyes darting to the tubes and bottles. And why doesn’t Ben take his friends upstairs to his room? Instead, they hung around the kitchen all weekend, giving blow-by-blow accounts of that week’s soccer game, debating music, or talking about their latest crush.
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Everyone has troubling dreams. In “Protect Us from All Anxiety” on Ash Wednesday, I wrote about one of the anxiety-related dreams that I’ve had in various forms in prison. There’s so much stress here, both the stress of prison itself and the stress of being separated from the outside world. That separation causes a lot of pain for prisoners serving Long sentences. We witness the people we once knew slipping away.
Euanggelion: The Triumph of Fr. Barron’s “Catholicism”
have an “uncorrected proof” of the book and a “rough-cut” of the DVD series; both are titled Catholicism, but they have different subtitles: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith and The Journey of a Lifetime. Take your pick; each is true.