A reading from the first Book of Kings
(Chapter 9:9a, 11-13a)
How and when do we experience God in our everyday lives? I have written a book about that experience. It is called
“At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. The Lord then said to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.’”
So, Elijah stood outside and along came a heavy wind that crushed rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not there either. Next came 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.”
That’s right, God was not in any of the powerful forces of nature, but rather in a tiny whisper. Of course, God does communicate to us in extreme or troubled times, but what about the quiet whispers that might come at any time, in any place—in prayer, and also during the everyday, ordinary times when we may least expect it. Has that ever happened to you? God is full of surprises if we have open hearts.
(Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14)
“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” When have you experienced the Lord’s kindness recently? Was it through the kindness of another person toward you or someone you love? Was it a physical or emotional or spiritual healing? How have you expressed your gratitude?
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans
Paul was a devout Jew before his conversion and had a deep sorrow in his heart for his fellow Jews. “Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises: theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
Paul expresses a powerful, heartfelt emotion. He would give up everything for the conversion of his people. Of course, many Jews did follow Christ. They were among the first who did. Yet, others did not, and that was heartbreaking for Paul.
Many of us have also had heartbreaking moments when our children or grandchildren seem to have lost their faith or moved to a different faith. But we continue to love them and pray for them, believing that the Spirit of God continues to live in each of them, whatever we may think and however we may feel.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
Have you ever been out in a boat in very bad weather? Jesus has just fed the multitudes, and now he is with the apostles who are going to fish. Jesus goes off by himself to pray.
“Meanwhile, the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said and they cried out in fear. At once, Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’”
The impetuous Peter starts off okay, but then he becomes frightened by the waves and starts 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?’”
This is not the only time that Peter lost his courage. As we know, he denied Jesus three times the night that Jesus was arrested. Yet, Jesus forgave him again and made him the leader of the apostles. Imagine that—a man with a big heart and a deep faith in Jesus, who was trusted by Jesus, failed him, and still Jesus called him to be the leader of the early Church.
Throughout the history of the Church, many of its leaders, including popes, have failed to live up to the trust given them; and yet, others have come forward in true leadership and the Spirit has guided them and us. We must have faith in the Spirit, especially in these challenging times.
Painting: Walking on Water by Ivan Ayvazovsky (1817-1900). Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.