19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings:1 Kings 19:9, 11–13: Psalm 85:9–14; Romans 9:1–5; Matthew 14:22–33
|Photo courtesy - Jean Marc Arkelian|
God comes to us in unexpected moments
Today's reading from the first book of Kings describes a unique experience of prophet Elijah. God meets him under unexpected circumstances. There is contrast between the silence of the cave and the noise of the mountain, solitude and disturbance. God meets him in unexpected moments of life. The prophet is the best example for us to think and expect differently about God whom we know from our scriptures, traditions and personal prayer.
Need to clarify the concepts about God
The fourth century Church Father St Gregory of Nazianzus in his Oration 31:8 writes about God so delicately. "The revelation of what was previously hidden should suffice for us. 'What competence have we here? We cannot understand what lies under our feet, cannot count the sand in the sea, 'drops of rain or the days of this world, much less enter into the 'depths of God' and render a verbal account of a nature so mysterious, so much beyond words."
Finite concepts about an infinite God
Our concepts are inescapably finite. St Paul writes to the community in Corinth (1 Corinthians 2.11) "For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God." Therefore, God is a mystery beyond our comprehension. This Uncreated Mystery is light beyond all light. We cannot have any concepts of God because all our concepts are created. As soon as we state something, we have to deny it. To each of her propositions about God, St Catherine of Genoa added: 'I blaspheme!'
Analogy helps to make a human discourse about God
Nevertheless, it is possible to speak of God. We cannot stop speaking about God. God is experienced in ordinary and mundane things of this world. Denial of such experiences of God is itself negating the presence of God. Prophet Elijah went up to the mountain from his dark cave when he listened to a voice. He could experience God only when he was ready for it. He heard different voices - of the mighty wind, shattering rocks, tearing down of the mountains, blows of the earthquake, destruction by the fire, shattering sound but God was found only in the gentle breeze or in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). Finally, what leads to truth about God is a right discernment or a willingness to accept something unique, precious and everlasting. Elijah chooses the right one, the gentle breeze, peace and tranquility in which God is found.
God is truth and light
We can use analogy only on the basis of our human experiences. In any discourse about God always follows an analogy of faith. Thus in no way such finite, human articulations reduces its value. All the more, the concepts like goodness, understanding, power, justice, being, substance, person, action, life, God is truth and light and that he is love, and so forth spring from the world of experiences of the person. Moreover, we possess no adequate concepts for God and apply created concepts to Him which allow us to tend towards His truth, without being able to grasp it conceptually.
Praise and worship infront of the mystery of beyond articulation
The highest mode of our life in God is doxology. That is one's readiness to refer God only in praise and adoration, the Reality who is Light beyond all light. Another early Church Father of the fifth century St Augustine writes in De Trinitate "When we have come to you, these words that we multiply without coming to you will cease." Similar was the experience of the Psalmist that we read today (85: 10-12):Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Yea, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Similarly, St Paul writes to the Romans that the new found truth in Jesus Christ in union with the Holy Spirit is the only point that finds purpose in his life to preach the Good News of our Lord (9:1-5).
Fear defeats, faith wins
After a whole night of fishing, as the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33) narrates, the disciples are just rubbing their eyes to see if anything they have caught. Unfortunately, in their tiredness and lack of sleep they had a different experience of seeing a ghost in their Rabbi. In spite of their familiarity and easy access to Jesus, disciples recognised him wrongly. In the midst of tension and nervousness the disciples forgot the identity of Jesus. Right Spirit but erroneous judgment. Strangely, familiarity breeds inaccurate and mistaken identity and faulty recognition. But quick realization of their mistake brings back harmony and peace. Moreover the faith of Peter and disciples in Jesus is strengthened. As the Word of God says, 'and those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God”' (Mat 14:33). When storms of life enter our lives; when the disturbances unsettle our normal life; our faith is tested; confidence in our saviour is shaken. When the waves of doubt are rolling beneath me; or when the troubles of life feel overwhelming; when I feel like walking in faith is just too hard; Jesus is there to rescue me too. Unless we are careful in listening to the whisper of God’s voice amidst whatever dark spirits work to disrupt or destroy us, we might go down the storm very quickly just like the disciples of Jesus.
We pray that this time of uncertainties and global health crises may be over very soon. Thus we may see God in gentle breeze and in still small voices. May the experience of his presence in so many variety of things and persons strengthen us to dare to reach out to others. Dear God increase our trust and confidence to walk even in the troubled waters and rising storms of life, Amen.
Question for reflections:
How do we find God in the storms and struggles of our lives, in the trials we encounter in trying to do His will?
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
08 August 2020