OT 19th Sunday August 10, 2014
1 Kgs 19:9,11-13 Ps 85 Rom 9:1-5 Mt 14:22-33
God in the Storm
There was a great storm coming. Elijah saw it. Elijah lived it. Israel had fallen far away from God. An evil king and queen ruled the land with violence and calculation. The chosen people were far more interested in the cultural and religious trends of surrounding nations than they were in the faith that had been handed to them by Moses and by the prophets. And so God raised the prophet Elijah to speak the hard truth to a wicked and perverse generation. He was in for the fight of his life.
In 1 Kings chapter 18 Queen Jezebel was busy killing off the true prophets of the Lord. It was a terrible persecution. But Elijah went to face the king and asked to face the false prophets that had infiltrated the kings court. By this time they weren’t even pretending to represent the God of Israel. They were fully dedicated to serving the Canaanite god Baal.
Elijah boldly challenged the king, the people, and the prophets and said to them, “how long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” And so the contest was announced. Each would build an altar and place a sacrifice upon it as an offering to their God. Only the true God would answer by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. The prophets of Baal went first. They sang, they danced, they slashed themselves with spears. But nothing happened. Then Elijah doused his sacrifice in water and prayed simply to God. God answered with fire from heaven. It was a dramatic miracle. A true sign.
And yet – did the people repent? Queen Jezebel made sure that a message was sent to Elijah of her plans to hunt him down and have him killed. So Elijah fled for his life. He was fearful, and probably greatly disheartened by the total lack of repentance on the part of the king, the queen, and the people. This is the situation out of which Elijah found himself in a cave, taking refuge from the violent and evil spiritual storm that was raging in his nation.
And so it was that God came to him to help him. God came to Elijah, not in the violent wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the “light silent sound.”
There was a great storm coming. Jesus saw it. He saw everything, and everything happened for a more profound purpose. He had just fed the 5,000 using only five loaves of bread and two fish. It was an amazing miracle that all of the people witnessed. Jesus had supernaturally fed them. And when they thought about it later on, hopefully they perceived the deeper Eucharistic meaning of the miracle.
Then Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds, and then went up the mountain to pray. And the storm came. The boat was being tossed about by the waves. The wind was against it. And just like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, there is a deeper meaning here too. The boat symbolizes the church. The disciples represent all of us. And the storm represents the evils that we struggle against during life. The church would go through various storms. At times it would be tossed about by the waves. At times the wind would be against it.
And then it was just before dawn, the fourth watch of the night, that Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. This is how God came to help the disciples. God was not in the violence of the wind and waves. Jesus the prince of Peace came to them, with authority over the wind and the waves. When Jesus came to them, the wind died down and there was peace.
There is a great storm coming. God has foretold it through the prophets. It has been reflected upon in sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the official teaching of the church. As Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem in order to face Good Friday, so also will the Church in these latter days follow her Lord into the passion of Good Friday.
This storm has various manifestations. The first manifestation is a personal one. Each one of us has faced and will face various trials. We will have our cross to carry. We will face the wind and the waves. Our boat will get tossed about. Each of us will face our own death. God, who did not spare his only Son from this trial, also does not spare us. Remember that God has the glorious end in mind - our sharing in the resurrected glory of Jesus in heaven forever. Remember also that Jesus has made a promise to each of us - that he will be with us endlessly.
The second manifestation of the storm we want to mention is a global and historic one. This was foretold by the old testament prophets, by Jesus himself in the gospels, hinted at by St. Paul, and explained in the vision of St. John in the Book of Revelation. There have been multiple fulfillments of these prophecies. The persecution of the Church in the 1st Century and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was one fulfillment. One could say that the World Wars of the 20th Century was another fulfillment. Interestingly, Pope Leo XIII had a vision on October 13, 1884 about Satan being given 100 years in which to persecute the Church, and then would be defeated by Our Lady. After having this vision Pope Leo wrote the St. Michael prayer, which Catholics frequently pray.
The Apparitions of our Lady of Fatima in 1917 predicted a global trial which would end with her triumph over Satan. The final apparition was on October 13, an interesting connection with the timing of Pope Leo’s vision. Looking ahead, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation. It is the 100th anniversary of Fatima. And it is the 50th anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal. Perhaps 2017 is a hopeful point of reference for these hopeful signs.
In the meantime, the storm rages in the world. In various places there is great suffering. And it seems imminent that this suffering will come against all of us for a time. Look for God in the storm. But God will not be in the fire, the earthquake, the wind, the waves, the convulsions of violence. God will be the peaceful center, the still quiet voice, the one who asks us to keep our eyes on Him so that we don’t sink down under the waves. He will be the one to catch our hand and rescue us. He will be the one who will call to us to keep our faith in Him. For God is with us in the storm. And God himself will bring the miracle of peace.