We pray to hear and not be frightened by the direct address God sends to each of us and our church. We pray for that sense which can distinguish between God’s word and our fears and doubts. We have to pray to see if we really want to listen to the call or pretend God does not do anything such as invite, challenge, and or encourage. Listening is dangerous, because of what we might hear; we pray for trust.
The story of how Elijah gets to the “cave” in today’s First Reading is important to our fuller understanding of the spirit of today’s liturgy. Elijah, as God’s prophet, has been saying some hard-to-hear things to the king. As a result many prophets have been killed and the threat has been made to kill Elijah as well. Elijah flees the area and on his journey lies down to rest. He ponders his condition and prays to God that he might die. He falls asleep, but an angel wakes him and provides food and drink for his continuing the journey to Mount Horeb.
Elijah reaches this “Mountain of God” and this is where we find him at the beginning of our reading. He has spoken the dangerous word of God, been rejected, made his complaints known to God, and responded to God’s personal care and call. Of course Elijah wants to stay secure in the cave, but God calls him out to listen to the rest of God’s story for him and Israel.
A strong wind blows, an earthquake happens and a fire blazes up,
but Elijah does not hear from God in those usual events. Elijah
does hear God’s familiar voice, but in the unusual experience
of a “tiny whispering.” The wind, earthquake and fire
come next in a way. What we do not hear in our reading is that God
asks Elijah what he is doing there in a cave. Elijah responds that
he is filled with zeal for God, because the people of Israel have
abandoned God. Here comes the earthquaking experience for Elijah.
“Go back,” says God and anoint new kings and prophets.
This means his going back into the wind and fire of persecution.
So he gets out of the comfort of the cave and rewalks into mystery.
As they climb back into the boat Jesus asks Peter why he doubted; Peter does not answer, he’s still shaking. The wind and storm die down and the disciples again acknowledge Jesus to be the “son of God.” The feeding, the sending, the finding all lead to a statement of faith even though there were experiences of doubt and fear.
Elijah and Peter, you and I, are both comforted and then missioned from the secure to the mysterious. We may come to the “cave” of our personal prayer or the “cave” of the church assembled for the Eucharist, but eventually we hear the voice of God asking, “What are you doing here?” Our answers differ, but God’s word remains the same: “Go back.” The disciples and Elijah went back into the strong winds of mystery and the insecure. His walking, their rowing, our going, were and are accompanied by God’s stretching out toward us and saying, “Take courage; it is I.”
Why did Elijah want to quit? Why did Peter lose faith? Obviously, they were afraid of losing their lives. Faith implies doubts and fears. Peter’s terror sets up a situation for Jesus to prove His fidelity.
Elijah is fed for the journey. The crowd and disciples are nourished with the bread and fish from the hands of Jesus and they are sent, or better said, distributed like the bread and fish. What are we doing at the Eucharistic Cave? We come from our individual lives to be found again, sheltered, comforted, nourished, reminded, renamed, and then re-missioned to distribute our lives offered to this world from His hands. Not all the earthquakings, heart-quakings are behind us. There are waves and winds, fires of all kinds and we who receive Him into our boats are invited to keep rowing, keep going to bring His calm to the storms of our individual worlds.
“The bread that I shall give is my flesh
for the life of the world, says the Lord.”
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