for the nineteenth Sunday of the Year
1 K 19:9a & 11-13a - Rom 9:1-5 - Mt 14:22-33
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The passage of God
1 K 19:9a & 11-13a
1 K 19:9, And there [Elijah] came to a cave, and lodged there... 11, And the Lord said, «Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.» And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12, and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a light breeze. 13, And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
God is present everywhere: in Heaven, on earth, in all places. This fact is certain, independent of our own will. Because God is God, that is to say because God is the Being whose existence is perfect in every way, it is beyond doubt that God is present everywhere, whether we like it or not.
But then how should it be understood when the Lord says that he will pass by: "And there Elijah came to a cave, and lodged there... And [the Lord] said, «Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.» And behold, the Lord passed by" (1 K 19:9-11)? This is easy to understand: for the Lord, passing by signifies manifesting his presence in one way or another. Thus, Elijah hears several different sounds: a strong wind, an earthquake, a fire, a light breeze. The Spirit of God makes Elijah understand that the passage of God, and thus his presence, is manifested not by a strong wind, nor by an earthquake, nor by a fire (which has a characteristic sound when it is stirred up by the wind), but rather by a light breeze, a sign of the mildness of the Heart of God.
Although God is present among us, we think about this little, or even not at all. Why? Whose fault is it? It is ours, of course... Before the original sin, man, Adam, and woman, Eve, saw, with the eyes of the spirit, the image of God that was in each of them, an image that ceaselessly pointed to its model: God. But, ever since man and woman sinned, having lost the spiritual gifts that the Lord had given them, man and woman have needed an external, material sign to remind them of the presence of God: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (Gen 3:6-8)
We all need signs to remind us of the presence of God among us: crosses and crucifixes, icons and frescoes, bells and carillons, etc.
Rom 9:1, I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3, For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. 4, They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5, to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.
Saint Paul, in this Sunday's second reading, speaks to us of another passage and of another sign of Christ our God. This sign is the chosen People itself, "they are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ." (Rom 9:4-5) The Word of Life took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, she herself an eminent member of the People of God, Israel. Through this passage, and since this passage, the Hebrew People reminds those who are willing to understand, in faith, that God, in Christ, is present among us, from his first coming until his second: "I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:20)
And yet, this was merely a passage. Once he lived among his own, Jesus was chased away by them: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (Jn 1:11) This became concrete when Jesus passed through Nazareth: "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read... And he said, «Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.» ... When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away." (Lk 4:16 ... 30)
The religion of Jesus is not Judaism, but rather Christianity. Those who, among the Jewish people, recognized the passage of God in Christ, are the men and women who left the Old Covenant to pass, with Jesus, into the New and Eternal Covenant! All of us, whoever we are, must pay attention to the passage of God in our life.
Mt 14:22, Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23, And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25, And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26, But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, «It is a ghost!» And they cried out for fear. 27, But immediately he spoke to them, saying, «Take heart, it is I; have no fear.» 28, And Peter answered him, «Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.» 29, He said, «Come.» So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30, but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, «Lord, save me.» 31, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, «O man of little faith, why did you doubt?» 32, And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33, And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, «Truly you are the Son of God.»
God passes through our life! How wonderful! God gives us the honor, the grace, the pleasure of inviting himself into our life! In a word: God comes to disturb us. Alas, for most people, it is true: God disturbs them. He comes into their life like a ghost that wants to scare them: "And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, «It is a ghost!» And they cried out for fear." (Mt 14:25-26)
And yet it is true: Jesus comes to disturb us. For he does not enter our life without jostling everything and knocking everything over. This is precisely what he wants to do: change our life! Jesus passes by to reorient our life, through faith, toward the true realities, and to bring order, much order into our life, in a word: peace! "Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, «Lord, save me.» Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, «O man of little faith, why did you doubt?» And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased."
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, also pass into our life, with Jesus!