Today’s readings are about recognizing God’s presence and then hearing and obeying His voice in our lives. I will start out with our amazing 1st reading before applying it, with the Gospel, to our lives.
Our 1st reading is from 1st Kings about the great Prophet Elijah. The context of this 1st reading is important. Earlier in 1st Kings, in one of my favorite stories of the Old Testament, Elijah challenged all the prophets of the false-god Baal- they all prayed and danced to have Baal send fire to consume the sacrifice; but after a whole day of pleading before Baal, their prayers were not answered. And even though Elijah’s sacrifice was drenched in water, at once, the Lord God sent fire to consume it. Thus, God proved that He is the Lord and Elijah defeated and killed all the false-prophets. Naturally, the wicked Queen Jezebel was angry and she set out to kill Elijah, and so he fled from her.
Our 1st reading takes place when Elijah is fleeing from Queen Jezebel. Our 1st reading says that Elijah came to the Mountain of God. Now, it is called the Mountain of God, because it is the same Mount Sinai on which God appeared to Moses, made the Covenant and gave the 10 Commandments. So God had Elijah go and hide at the same mountain he appeared to Moses years earlier. Exodus 19 says that when God appeared to Moses and the Israelites from the mountain, there was a dark cloud, peels of thunder and lightning, fire, smoke, and a loud trumpet blast. All the Israelites were afraid of what they saw and heard. But we should take note that God chose to reveal himself through the powerful external sensory manifestations of the thunder, lightning, and fire. So to Moses God wanted to reveal His power through the senses, by what they saw, heard, and smelled.
However, in our 1st reading, God told Elijah to be looking for when He would reveal himself to him. Our 1st reading says, there was a strong driving wind that moved and crushed rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Therefore, we learn that this time God chose not to reveal Himself through one of these big, loud, sensory manifestations. But after the fire, Elijah heard a tiny whispering sound, and it was in this that Elijah recognized God’s presence and hid his face out of reverence. Therefore, Elijah was able to discern God’s whispering voice through all the external noises of the wind and earthquake, and so on. Elijah’s senses- what he saw, heard, felt, etc. must have been bombarded, but being a man of God, Elijah had what I call a 6th sense. The Holy Spirit within Him was the 6th sense which enabled Elijah to truly recognize God- through which he knew that God wasn’t in the external sensory manifestations like He chose to Moses and the Israelites.
And so, my brothers and sisters, we see through the 1st reading and its context, that God wanted to reveal Himself, but He chose to reveal Himself in different ways. The question is: are you and I able to recognize God’s presence? I ask you to think about, when you pray, do you intentionally recognize God’s presence? I admit that for many years of my life, I really didn’t know how to pray. I would pray, but I didn’t try and recognize God’s presence- I wasn’t taught to. And so I kind of thought that prayer was something that I did for God, but it wasn’t an encounter, it wasn’t to foster a relationship with God. So every time you pray, first take time to acknowledge the presence of God.
But then also, when we pray, do we expect God to want to reveal Himself to us? Do we give Him time, and do we listen to how God chooses to respond? We all have so many things we are praying about- so many anxieties and worries- but when we pray do we expect God to want to respond in some way to what is going on in our hearts? Yes, sometimes God does reveal Himself and His will through our senses- through other people, other things, and in various ways, but it is the Holy Spirit, our 6th sense, through which we can know when He chooses to reveal Himself in a quiet whisper in our hearts. And so we should always be seeking His presence, because he desires to reveal and give Himself to us. Every time we leave Mass, if asked how are you doing, we should always say, I’m better now! For Mass is the greatest form of prayer, the greatest encounter with our living and loving God. And when the gifts are brought forward to the altar, you should be offering up your heart- all the anxieties, worries, and pain. So that then, when the priest says, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable, you can truly say that you have indeed offered your heart. And then in the Holy Eucharist, after you literally receive Jesus inside you, do you recognize and receive Jesus comforting, directing, giving you His peace within you? Some people are kind of waiting on the priest for the next part of the Mass, but it is then, above all, that Jesus wants to reveal His true presence within us. If we really this do this, every week or every day, how can we leave Mass unchanged? How can we ever wonder where God is in our lives?
The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize God’s presence and what He wants to communicate to us; but we have to foster the listening to and recognizing Him. I admit, too, that sometimes I forget, sometimes I get too busy saying the prayers that I fail to let God speak. We truly have to intentionally practice learning to recognize and listen to God’s voice. It is only by continuously striving to hear His voice, that we are then able to learn to recognize which of the many voices is from God.
In our Gospel, in the midst of the storm, Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water and said, “take courage, it is I, do not be afraid”. God desires to say those same words to us through all the various storms in our lives, but we need to listen for His comforting voice.
Peter heard Jesus’ words, and courageously wanted to come to Jesus out on the water. And Jesus invited Peter to come to Him. Miraculously, Peter was able to walk on the water to Jesus. “But when Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened and began to sink”. That is, when Peter allowed his sense of sight to get in the way and tell him how impossible it was, he began to sink. When Peter stopped listening to Jesus, and stopped listening to the Holy Spirit encouraging him on his way to Jesus, he began to sink. When Peter stopped hearing the supernatural internal voice of the Holy Spirit, but only saw the external natural effects of the wind and storm around him, did he sink. Indeed, in our own lives we can get so caught up with the external things around us, that we fail to see or hear God within. Jesus, though, immediately took Peter’s hand and saved him from drowning. But then Jesus said, “oh you of little faith, why did you doubt”? Indeed, when we get so caught up with the external things around us, so caught up in our storms, that we fail to see or hear God calling us, speaking to us, we can wonder why did we doubt? So that is the key to faith, then, isn’t it- to listen to the calm, quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit every day, all day, of our lives. To truly live our lives by faith means to be continually recognizing God’s presence and listening to His calming voice and not pay attention to the external noises of the storms around us. So, join me in asking that we will have that faith- that we will learn to recognize God’s presence and listen to His loving and calming voice within us.BACK TO LIST