Saturday, August 9, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community , 19th OT A, Aug. 10, 2014 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

God had sent Elijah as prophet to Israel.
But Elijah runs away in fear and despair,
hiding in the desert,
not standing before the people as God’s prophet,
praying to die.
So God feeds Elijah and tells him to go to the mountaintop
and stand there in front of God.
Elijah goes to the side of the mountain… and hides in a cave.
That’s where we find him in today’s first reading.
Elijah is neither in the place God tells him to be,
nor does he take the stance of prophet God tells him to take.
But God stays with Elijah, speaking to him
not in the wind, or the earthquake,
or the fire, but in “a gentle voice.”
Scholars say that the Hebrew text defies translation,
so Elijah’s experience has also been described as
“a sound of sheer silence;” “a faint murmuring sound;”
“a still small silence;” and “a tiny whispering sound.”
So God asks gently in that immense quiet:
What are you doing here, Elijah?
Why are you here instead of where I sent you?
And then God sends Elijah once again
to fulfill the duties of prophet.
Elijah takes courage
because he knows he is not alone;
God is with him;
all will be well.
Today’s Gospel brings us a parallel lesson.
It’s the story of the storm on the lake.
Jesus, after the feeding of the five thousand,
has gone off alone to pray.
Very often in scripture we see this pattern,
with Jesus going off to pray by himself in nature.
Just like us, Jesus needs both kinds of prayer—
the communal prayer with the people,
and the periods of silent personal prayer in contact with nature.
And the disciples in the boat, like Elijah in the desert,
found themselves in danger,
afraid first of the storm
and then of the ghostly appearance of Jesus so near the boat.
The incident ends with Jesus’ comforting words:
Don’t be afraid; I’m here with you.
Their circumstances did not change, nor did those of Elijah.
The disciples were still at sea during a storm,
and Elijah was still being threatened by Jezebel.
But both the prophet and the disciples were able to go on
because the divine presence
gave them the courage to do so.
We’ve all been there.
The storms of life hit us hard—
the death of a loved one, loss of a job,
diagnosis of serious health problems.
When we focus on the storm, we panic.
When we center ourselves in prayer,
we find strength to get through it,
even to reach out to calm the fears of the others
in the boat with us.
What are we doing here?
There’s a storm on our lake, too.
Last week it was toxic algae bloom.
People gathered and prayed.
They helped one another.
We got through it.
Every day we hear more warnings
that last week’s water crisis will happen again.
Climate change threatens not only the water we drink
But also the food we eat,
the air we breathe.
Scientists tell us that the storms are going to get worse
unless we do something now.
I was both pleased and dismayed
when I heard the media calling us
to recycle all those water bottles last Tuesday.
I was pleased to think that people
would not be adding them to landfills
or throwing them in the streets or in the water.
But I was dismayed that they were not filling them with tap water
and keeping them handy for the next crisis.
It’s a simple thing,
and it’s not so costly
that it couldn’t be done by almost everyone.
My stash of emergency water fits easily in my basement.
When there’s no crisis, I rotate the bottles
by using one or two to water my indoor plants
or fill my steam iron, then refill them from the tap.
I don’t have to stand in line for water,
or travel long distances,
or pay price-gougers.
I have enough to share with my neighbors.
The only folks who couldn’t do the same are the homeless,
who have no place to keep it,
and people who are so poor
that they can’t afford running water.
There are other things we can do—
stop over-fertilizing our lawns,
organize our errands to use less gas,
turn off lights and appliances when we aren’t using them.
We can pay attention to the tiny whispers
that are telling us to look for waste and extravagance
in our lifestyles
and do what we can to make sure that everyone has enough
before we use more than our fair share.
Our psalm today sings out:
Blessed be God who is over all!
And it is God’s presence, God’s spirit,
that fills us with the courage to take action.
Though we may stumble and falter along the way,
we will all get through, listening to that sound in the silence,
the still small voice that whispers,
Do not be afraid. I am with you.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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