Our situation in life often influences the medium through which we interact with God or experience God in our lives. In the first Reading, (1Kg 19:9. 11-13), Elijah went to Horeb after he had navigated a turbulent time in Israel’s history. The Jews led by their King Ahab had apostatised by worshipping Baal instead of the true God. Most of the prophets of God had been slain by the sword. Elijah survived because he exiled himself.
Israel had experienced two and half years of famine caused by her apostasy. Israel’s disloyalty to God led to an open challenge between the worship of God and Baal on Mount Carmel. Baal had four hundred and fifty prophets, but Elijah was the only surviving prophet of God. God triumphed at the end of the show of wits between him and Baal.
The triumph of God led to the demise of the prophets of Baal, (1Kg 18:20-39). Elijah then prayed and rain fell again in Israel, (1kg 18: 41-46). But when Jezebel heard that the prophets of Baal were demised, she wanted to nab and kill Elijah, who escaped to Horeb. With all these hardships that Elijah had undergone, he could only see God in a calming gentle breeze, not in hurricane, or cyclone, or earthquake or fire. It is true that those who had been through traumatic experiences re-live their trauma each time there is an event that makes them recall their hurt.
The context of the Gospel of today was that, Jesus. having received the news of the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod in prison, set out with his disciples by boat to a secluded place where they could be alone to mourn the passing of John the Baptist and to plan their strategy for their ministry. However, people anticipated where they might be retreating to and travelled there ahead of them. When they came ashore Jesus saw a substantial number of people waiting for him and he had compassion on them, hence, rather than having a quiet time as he had proposed, he healed the sick among them and fed them by performing the first miracle of five loaves and two fish.
In today’s Gospel, (Mt 14:22-33), Jesus having fed the multitude, sent his disciples ahead of him to the other side of the secluded area while he dismissed the crowd. After dismissing the people, Jesus went to the mountain to pray until night fall. Meanwhile, his disciples were in fear and shock because they were being battered by a strong headwind. While Jesus was walking towards them on the sea he noticed their anxiety and perplexity. Their fear was compounded when they thought that Jesus was a ghost because he was walking on the sea. Jesus tried to soothe their fears by saying to them, “Courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” However, it was only when Jesus stilled the sea and calmness returned to their sailing that they acknowledged the presence of God in their midst by bowing down and worshipping Jesus, for they could only discover God in the stillness of the waves just as Elijah was only able to discover God in the gentle breeze.
At times, we may be experiencing turbulence in our lives or in our families like the anxieties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic that we need a gentle breeze or the stillness of the waves to calm our fears. The psalmist said, “be still and know that I am God”, (Ps 46:10). In this context we need God to be a God of hope, healing, forgiveness, and break through.
At other times, we may need our spirit lifted and we would discover God in rowdy events. During the Jewish sojourn in the desert, as they travelled to the promised land from Egypt, they experienced God as God of Thunder, Earthquake, and Lightning at Mount Sinai, (Ex 19:14-22). The Jews needed to experience the might of God to believe that God could bring them to the promised land. Similarly, on the day of Pentecost, the frightened disciples of Jesus experienced the Holy Spirit as a hurricane and fire, (Acts 2:1-4).
The ways in which God has been invoked include: God of Power, God Almighty, Immutable God, God of Justice, God of Mercy and Compassion, God of Love, God of Peace, Avenging Fire, God of Majesty, Eternal Father, Everlasting God, God of Consolation, God of War, Omnipotent God, King of Kings, I Am, Invincible God and Incarnate God, (Emmanuel). An invocation of God may be more akin to our state in life at a time than another invocation. For instance, those facing structural injustice or oppression will cry to God as a God of Justice, and those who are experiencing harmony and peace in their lives will thank a God of Love and Peace.
Lord, may all who cry out to you, not cry out in vain,
but may they always
experience you as a caring and loving God. Amen
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp