19th Sunday: A Tiny Whispering Sound Full of Power
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.