19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 13th August
For fear of repeating myself, we live in a world besieged by noise and opinion. We live in a climate in which we are swamped by a tsunami of media which seeks to grab our attention and focus our interest. Whether it is the daily diet of news, social media or email everybody seems to want to grab our gaze. There is also a great climate of news which seeks to engender fear and distraction away from ourselves to matters over which we have little control. It calls us to attend to something for fear that we may become bored with ourselves and the routine of our daily lives. We can see this in the way storms seem to break upon us and we are called to focus on the destructive forces of nature. There seems to be a climate which creates a sense of powerlessness which seems to be overwhelmed by these events. We seem to be diminished by our own world which seems to be fighting against us. Then again if this was not all, we are confronted by those who wish to set fire and destroy what is known whether by terrorism, war or personal conflict. This desire to give vent to their own inner conflicts by force upon others, this seeking to face our own destructive instincts is at the heart of our own ability to be wounded and to wound others.
Yet in the midst of this outward and inward ability to be overcome by forces which seem beyond our control we have two images that come to us through the scriptures. The first is Elijah in the cave. He does not hear God's voice in the destructive nature of the gale, the earthquake or the fire but in the quiet zephyr of a breeze which passes in front of him. In the midst of this gentleness he covers his face and stands present. This is a call for us to listen to a God who alone can quieten the violence which can seem to overwhelm and destroy us.
The second image is that of the boat battling a heavy sea and Peter being invited out of the boat to walk towards Jesus. Once again this is not an ignoring of the storms that can rage around us but rather a trust in a God who calls us to reach out and touch him. There is a total reliance in how God is present even in the most difficult situation and to entrust our lives totally to him.
This is a reminder to us that our faith is built on a relationship with the one who can save us and call us to a life in union with him. It is from this relationship that we do not become passive observers of life but rather participants who do not succumb to a fatalistic way of being present. We are called to notice what frightens us but not be overcome by it. By being open to how God quietens our fears we can start to focus on what creates life, what builds hope and what sustains others in loving charity. Each day we listen to that still quiet voice which allows us to be prayerfully present to ourselves and to others.
Fr. John Armstrong
"The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder." (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)