19th Sunday of Ordinary TimeCycle A
It’s all around us. It comes at us from all sides and permeates all areas of our lives. It shakes us and buffets us and causes us great anxiety. It’s the thing we worry about the most and the thing that keeps us up at night. It affects all our relationships both positively and negatively. And it’s the thing that can keep us away from God, if we let it. It’s the whirlwind.
The whirlwind is our daily lives. It’s the stuff of our existence these days. It’s the meetings and reports, the emails and texts and phone calls and tweets and Facebook. It’s the kid’s homework and dry cleaning and figuring out what’s for dinner. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just is. We live within it and it lives within us. We need to live within it because that’s how our lives get done. But it is the immediate, the now. Oftentimes is what we reflexively do without much thought. But it’s not big-picture stuff. It’s not reflective or deep. For that we have to step out of the whirlwind for a time.
The whirlwind prepares us to meet God. It makes us ready to let go completely and reach out to God to save us. Elijah went and stood at the mouth of the cave. Peter stepped out of the boat.
Elijah is worried today. He has just run away to
escaping from the king who he thinks is trying to kill him. You see, Elijah has
been saying some very politically incorrect things about the king lately, and
the king has a way of killing off prophets who don’t please him. In fact, he
has threatened to do just that to Elijah, so he has run off into the desert to
hide. But he has forgotten to bring any food with him, so he lays down in the
desert under a broom tree and asks God to let him die. Instead, God sends an
angel to him with food and water. After eating and drinking, Elijah then has
enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mt. Horeb .
Once there, he hides in a cave. And worries. Mt. Horeb
He worries that the people won’t listen to him. He worries that he will be killed if he is found. He worries about having enough to eat and drink. He worries about what might be living in the back of the cave. But most of all, he worries about what God might ask him to do. As he cowers there, the word of God comes to him and tells him, “What are you doing here? Go outside and wait for me.”
Elijah goes out and waits, worrying about what God will send his way. Will it be an earthquake, shaking him from his safe perch and forcing him to go and shake up the kingdom some more? Will it be fire, a burning deep within him that cannot be contained, that consumes him and compels him to speak the word of God? Will it be a driving wind, blowing him around helplessly before it, forcing him to give up control of his life to the Lord? Elijah looks for the Lord in the whirlwind, but he’s not there.
Then a tiny whispering sound is heard. It says, “Come Outside”.
Peter is worried today. For a while now he has been wondering just who this person Jesus is. He sees the miracles, hears the teachings, yet he just isn’t sure. Peter is worried about a lot of things. He has left behind his family and his business. How will they survive without him? People in
are laughing at him, running off after some teacher like a fool. Doesn’t he
know he isn’t a child anymore? He has responsibilities. And Peter is unsure of
himself. He always seems to be running off at the mouth, saying the wrong
thing. Just the other day Jesus called him Satan, when all he was trying to do
was show his concern for Jesus. He was so ashamed that he hung back in the
crowd, embarrassed to even look Jesus in the eye. Capernaum
It’s almost like this storm on the lake. Peter feels out of control. He feels buffeted by the winds and the waves of daily life that seem to be against him. But then the Word of God comes to him also, just like Elijah, and says to him, “Come”. Not what he wants to hear. Peter wants to cower in the safety of the boat, not venture out upon the very waters that threaten him. He worries that they will engulf him, and you know what, they do. He starts to sink. I guess that 1 percent caught up with him.
Then a tiny whispering sound is heard. “Don’t Worry.” And he is saved.
What do you do when you are worried? How do you handle the anxieties and uncertainties of the whirlwind? Do you run away and hide in your cave? Do you cower in your boat? Is everything blown out of proportion? Is everything an earthquake, or fire, or a driving wind to you? Where do you find peace?
We need to step out of the whirlwind in order to re-root ourselves in what is truly important. We need a firm foundation in the Lord in order to handle the whirlwind. And to do so we must find silence. Elijah found the Lord in the quiet. Jesus went off into the desert in solitude to pray. The apostles recognized Jesus as truly the Son of God only after he had quieted the storm.
Jesus can quiet the whirlwind.
But it’s we who have to get out of the boat. Jesus says “Come” and we have to step out in faith. The most effective way to quiet the whirlwind is through prayer. Many of us exercise regularly, or try to. We know that in order to be effective, we must exercise on a defined schedule at a specific time and place. And it requires self -discipline. It’s the same with prayer.
I think we tend to think of prayer as something we do, not something we experience. We talk too much when we pray, probably because we may be uncomfortable with it. Prayer is more a state of being than an action. And it requires silence.
How many of you have a place in your home where you pray? Maybe it’s in your bedroom or den, in your favorite chair. My prayer room is my den, with my comfy recliner, surrounded by pictures of my family and closest friends. I have a relic of St. Padre Pio that my father gave me. A bird feeder is right outside the window. I have found that the quietest time in our house is early in the morning, before the busyness of the day begins. And so years ago I started getting up about a half hour before anyone else, pour myself a cup of coffee, and retreat into my prayer den for a few minutes of quiet.
Sometimes I pray the liturgy of the hours, sometimes I say a rosary, and sometimes I just sit there and say “Good morning, Lord.” And then I just look at Him and He looks at me. For me, that’s enough of a daily grounding before I hit the whirlwind. Or it hits me.
The best part of regular prayer is you can’t do it wrong. You will look in many places for God. You will try to find him in the whirlwind. But the best place to find him is here, in your heart. If you start looking for Him within, soon you will recognize him more in your relationships, in your work, in your everyday life.
And that’s how you tame the whirlwind.