Monday, August 1, 2011

The Whispered Word

So I decided to start writing reflections on the readings again...  Here goes:

Reflections on the August 7th Readings:
“After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  1 Kings 19:12b-13a

The Lord was not in the mighty wind, or the powerful earthquake, or the great fire.  No, God is found in the tiniest whispered sound, perhaps sometimes a sound that is difficult to hear.

I have often heard the complaint that if God were so great then he should come down and show himself to us, make us believe.  If Jesus would just perform miracles today the same way he did in the New Testament then of course we would follow him.  If he would just tell me his will, then I will do what he says.  Why can’t he be so bold and blunt?

If we look at the Gospel reading for August 7th, however, we find that our convictions that Jesus could just give us proof by standing before us don’t really hold water.  In Matthew 14, Jesus walked on water before Peter and the Apostles and yet, as Peter boldly jumps out of the bold and begins to walk on water himself, he suddenly becomes afraid and loses faith, even in the presence of Jesus.  Peter had just seen the miracle of the feeding of the 5000; he had been walking in Jesus’ presence for quite some time, and yet his faith wanes.  The mighty wind distracts him, terrifies him, and he doubts the calming presence of Christ.

Our world today is so full of distractions and misleading “truths” that even when God does speak, we lose his whisper in the chaos.  We are diverted by mighty wind of promises of successes, the powerful earthquake of pain and suffering, the glorious glow of the fire of material possessions.  We are swept away by temptations that often seem more powerful, more splendid, more prominent than the tiny whisper of God.

In focusing on the mighty works of the world, we fail to see God in the loving care of a friend, the pleading voice of a family member asking us to do the right thing, the letter of an organization in need of assistance to help the poor, the gentle smile of a neighbor, the rolling laughs of our children.  We don’t realize that every good thing, and I mean all that is good in our life, is from God.  If we stop to think about our blessings, we know they speak louder than any mighty roar.

But why, then, does God make it so difficult for us to recognize him? Do we not see that God has no desire to force us to believe in him by asserting his power through great and mighty works?  Even if he did perform these mighty deeds, would we recognize him?  Or would we claim it was only our imagination; it was some strange fluke; there must be a scientific explanation (after all, science has struggled to explain the miracle of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the tilma to no avail, yet much of the world still does not believe in it).

God chooses to speak to us in the tiniest whisper because, more often than not, this is the most powerful way to touch someone.  When I was a teenager, the most effective way for my mother to get through to me was through a gentle talk.  She would softly explain why I needed to finish my schoolwork and chores before going to hang out with my friends, why I shouldn’t bring boys back to my room alone, and what it really meant to be a woman.  If she had yelled at me, or “exerted her power” over me, I don’t think I would have responded so well.  I might have been a rebel.  In fact, studies have shown that yelling at children is not very effective; it causes anger and bitterness while calm conversations build confidence and help the child to make the right decision while feeling like it is his own decision.

Which is, of course, what God wants us to do—make our own decision to listen to Him.  After all, he gave us Free Will.  He comes to us in a whisper not because he wants to hide from us or make it difficult but because he wants us to find and follow him through a free act of love.

We can always turn to the saints, who were the greatest examples of fervently listening for God’s whispered words.  They did not look for great signs and wonders but often found God through silent prayer, holy adoration, in the faces of the poor and suffering with whom they worked.  And these saints who made themselves small and lowly, constantly pushing attention away from themselves, often seemed the quietest, least powerful people of all, yet somehow, by the grace of God, their tiny whispers echo around the world.

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