Sunday, 07 August 2011 00:00
Alone in our grief. We who are often wearied by the weight of our troubles can find comfort in the stories of Elijah and Jesus in our readings today. Pursued by the troops of Queen Jezebel, Elijah, the last surviving prophet of Israel, flees and finds refuge in a cave in Mount Horeb. Exhausted and exasperated, he complains to God about the intransigence of the Israelites and the fruitlessness of his prophetic work. “Take away my life,” he begs the Lord. Dejected and desperate, Elijah runs for his life and attempts to run away from his mission.
We are familiar with the miracles of Jesus that our Gospel reading today narrates the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish and the walking over the waters but perhaps not with the context surrounding those events. Jesus had just learned of the beheading of John. Overcome by grief, he informs his disciples that he is not preaching or healing that day. He takes the boat and crosses the lake to the other side by himself. Jesus, divinely human, experiences our anguish and the confusion and pain of losing a dear friend. He evades the crowds and permits himself to grieve in solitude.
In our aloneness the Lord comes. Uncertain of his fate, Elijah desperately seeks the Lord. A strong wind splits mountains and rock, but he does not find the Lord in the wind. The earth rattles and roils; he does not discern God in the earthquake. A fire rages; alas, he finds no spark of the Lord’s presence. But in the faint whisper of the wind, he finds God. Out of reverence for the Lord, Elijah wraps his face with his mantle. He has found the Lord who reassures him of His presence and protection not through the fire or earthquake, but through the gentle wind.
On the other hand, the Lord also comes to our aid through astounding events that indubitably manifest God’s intervention in our lives. Going back to our Gospel reading, our grieving Lord sets aside his sorrow, cures the sick and feeds the multitude with five loaves and two fish. Later that evening, our Lord sets aside his time for solitude with the Father, rushes down the mountain slopes, walks across the waters and quiets wind and waves in order to save his disciples caught in a sudden storm at sea.
Restored and recommitted. Reassured of God’s abiding presence, Elijah reclaims his vocation and sets forth for Damascus, where he anoints Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as a new prophet of Israel. Despite the lingering threats to his life, Elijah recommits himself to the work for which the Lord has chosen him.
Similarly, Jesus, though half-expecting the eventual martyrdom of John, is stunned by the news of his beheading. As he mourns the fateful end of his friend second cousin or former mentor he wrestles with his own mission and destiny. If he remained true to his vocation, would he meet the same fate as John? If he remained faithful to Abba, would the Father permit him to put to death as was John? On the boat as he crossed the lake by himself, Jesus wrestles with himself. However, the needs of the people evoke his compassion. He cures the sick and feeds the hungry. Atop a lonely mountain that evening, Jesus continues to grieve and pray. However the need of his disciples whose lives are in danger draws him out of his solitude and propels him to save his friends. Despite the lingering threat to his life, Jesus, whose heart and mind are united with the Father, continues to carry out his mission.
Alone yet never alone. We all get weary and dejected from our work that sometimes does not bear fruit, from sacrifices for others at times unappreciated. Let us find comfort in the fact that the greatest of Israel’s prophets, Elijah, and our own Lord Jesus also experienced our frustrations and anguish. Like Elijah, at the low moments of our life, we desperately look for signs of God’s presence. Like Jesus who in his grief found refuge in the Father, let us incessantly seek the Lord. And let us not waver in our faith that the Lord comes to us, that the Lord comes to our aid. Sometimes through the dramatic and spectacular, often through the quiet and unremarkable. Having found the Lord in the whisper of the wind, Elijah recommits to his vocation. Having reconnected with the Father in the solitude of a mountaintop, Jesus carries out his mission. We pray for the grace to detect the Lord’s presence, whether in the great fires or the quiet winds of our lives. And having been reminded of the Lord’s abiding presence, may we go forth to feed the hungry and accompany the lonely, assuring them that we are never alone.
Published: The Philippine Star