The king, Ahaz, was relieved.  Yet the Prophet Elijah could not get the people to embrace the one true God.  So he arranges a contest between himself and the false prophets of the cult Bāāl.  The point of the contest was to prove to the people who indeed is the one true God.

There were 450 prophets of Bāāl against Elijah, alone.  They took two bulls.  First the prophets of Bāāl took their bull, prepared it for sacrifice then prayed to their god to send down fire to consume the sacrifice.

Here is what happened.  They called upon their god, Bāāl, from morning till noon, but there was no answer.  So Elijah said to them:  "Call louder, for he is a god, he may be busy doing his business, or he may be on a journey.  Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." (I Kings 18:27ff)

Elijah was taunting them.  Still they called upon their god.  They called and called until late in the day.  In response, the Scripture says, "There was not a sound.  No one was answering.  No one was listening." (I Kings 18:29)

Elijah then set up his sacrifice.  He prayed to the Lord God.  The Lord sends down fire which consumed the sacrificial bull, the wooden altar and everything.  The people witnessing this are now convinced.  "The Lord is God," they say with conviction. 

Now Elijah did not stop there.  He took all 450 prophets of Bāāl and had them put to death.  This enraged the wife of King Ahaz.  Her name was Jezebel.  She vowed to kill Elijah.  To escape her fury, he fled to the mountain of Horeb and there he took refuge in a cave.  (I Kings 19:1ff)

Mount Horeb is the same as Mount Sinai.  It was there that Moses went to receive the Ten Commandments.  What happens to Elijah as he takes refuge in a cave on Mt. Horeb, in fear for his life?  He experiences the mighty and unmistakable presence of God.  How?  That is what is proclaimed for us today.  The Lord was passing by and invited Elijah to see. (I Kings 19:11ff)

 

  1. First there was a mighty wind, but the Lord was not in the wind.
  2. Then came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in that either.
  3. Then came fire.  The Lord was not in the fire.
  4. Finally, there was a tiny, whispering sound.  That is where the Lord was!

God's presence is not in some awesome event, but in something almost insignificant.  God is not in the noise, but in the stillness, in the quiet.  Now there is a very important message for us to take away from these words of Sacred Scripture proclaimed for us today.  The Lord is present to us not in the extraordinary and the spectacular, but in the ordinary, common, everyday, and even, unlikely moments.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) invites us to find God in all things.  This is very important to understand.  We need to be aware that God can be found in everyone, in every place and in everything.  When we learn to pay more attention to God, we become more thankful, more reverent, more devoted to God and more respectful of others.

Ignatius invites us to look back over the course of any day of our life and try to trace the presence of God with us at any given moment.  God is not just with us at Church.  God is also with is when we leave, when we return to face all the challenges, the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows, the neatness and the messiness of our lives.  God is with us not just in the good times but in the difficult times, too.  Elijah was facing a very difficult time and there God is present to him in a most unexpected way, a tiny whispering sound.

Living according to this conviction of seeing God in all things, is what Pope Francis does so well.  That is why he urges people like me to be shepherds who smell like the sheep.  That is why he could so spontaneously embrace and kiss a man whose face was so horribly disfigured by a rare disease which made people shun him.

Seeing God in all persons is why, every Holy Thursday, Pope Francis leaves the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica and celebrates the Mass of the Lord's Supper and washes the feet of the imprisoned, the illegal immigrant, the ill and the aged. 

Seeing God in everyone is what we need to do when we look at that spouse of ours or that child of ours who has so gravely disappointed us.  It is what we must do when we think of that co-worker or neighbor who is so utterly offensive to us.  Seeing God in people and places where we least expect it is precisely what we are prompted to do by reflecting on the experience of the Prophet Elijah in the Scripture today.  But make no mistake about it, this is by no means easy.

Peter goes to meet him, walking on the water.  But Peter suddenly looses faith and sinks.  Recognizing the Lord in the most unexpected places is not easy.  It was not for Peter.  It is not for us.

 Commenting on this, Pope Benedict XVI noted that:  "... the troubled faith of the Apostle Peter enables us to understand that even before we seek the Lord or invoke him, it is he himself who comes to meet us, who lowers heaven to stretch out his hands to us and raise us to his heights:  all he expects of us is that we trust totally in him, that we really take hold of his hand."

Encountering the Lord in the cave where he was hiding on Mt. Horeb, the Prophet Elijah hid his face in his cloak.  This was a mark of respect and reverence for the divine presence. 

 For Peter it will be a bit different.  Peter first encounters the Lord in the disappointing moment of a failed fishing trip.  He had worked hard all night and caught nothing.  The Lord asks him to try one more time.  Put out into the deep one more time.  Peter does so reluctantly.  But when he does the volume of fish he pulls in threatens to sink his boat.  In that moment of recognition, Peter says:  "Depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:8)

 The Lord is with us in the most unexpected places and times.  He does not wish to depart from us rather, to remain with us. 

 Encouraging us.  Comforting us.  Supporting us. Enlightening us. 

 

 His desire and goal and purpose, despite all obstacles, is to SAVE US.

 His desire and goal and purpose is to SAVE US, even in spite of ourselves.

 

 

Readings

I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a

[Psalm 85]

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33