Sunday, August 10, 2014


After one Mass, someone said, "Father, don't leave. We need you!"  After the next Mass someone else said, "If you go, could please you take me with you?"

   Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   A  

Fr. Tom knew things weren’t going well
whenever he heard me say,
“That’s it!  I’m leaving for the monastery!”
In fact, it always made him a little nervous
because, deep down, 
he suspected that—one of these days—
I just might do it.
(And for that very reason
I haven’t yet said it to Fr. Justin…)

I can pretty safely say
that anyone who takes their faith seriously
has, at least once, 
been likewise tempted to turn tail.

That’s certainly the case with the prophet Elijah,
whom we find perched atop Mount Horeb.
In the face of much opposition,
he’d stuck to his guns and done what was right—
all at God’s instigation.
But his actions, while good and true, were anything but popular,
and he now finds himself a hated and hunted man.
Desperate and discouraged,
Elijah climbs the Lord’s mountain to hide out in a cave.
And it’s there—
not in the powerful displays of hurricane, earthquake, or raging fire,
but in the quiet whisper of a gentle breeze—
that Elijah rediscovers what he most certainly already knew:
that he could not out run his problems,
and he certainly couldn’t run away from God.
In the still silence,
Elijah is reminded that he should be much more frightened
of being unfaithful to God than of anything his enemies could dish out.
And so he heads back down the mountain
to face again all he had earlier attempted to flee.

Some recent spiritual reading reminded me
that God does not speak or work except in peace—
not in trouble and agitation.
And yet there are so many things which disturb us,
so many things which could send us running for cover:
the struggles of life and fear of suffering;
our own faults and the shortcomings of others;
fretting over tough decisions and adapting to change.
We’re even rather capable of agitating ourselves.
So many causes for unrest!
So many storms to toss our boats about!

After St. Teresa of Avila died in 1582,
following a life marked by much grace
but also many reasons for great distress,
a short poem was found written
on a scrap of paper tucked inside her breviary;
it reads:
            Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you.
            All things are passing, but God never changes.                                   
            Patient endurance obtains all things.
            Whoever has God wants for nothing.
            God alone suffices.
Elijah ran away for precisely the same reason
that Peter sank when walking to Jesus on the sea—
and why I sometimes threaten to become a monk:
his faith was shaken;
he looked down toward his difficulties
instead of looking up toward God—and therefore lost heart.

Listen again to what Jesus whispers through the wind and waves:
Take courage.  Be at peace.
It is I.  Do not be afraid.
Why should your faith falter?

No, you cannot run away from your troubles.
But—thankfully—neither can you run away from God.

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