In August of 2008, I heard Deacon Chuck preach this homily and asked him for his notes so that I might publish it on the parish blog. It got quite a few comments too!
One thing that strikes me about this homily as I reprint it is the theme of silence... which is what the blessed season of Advent invites us to, the silence that helps us to encounter our Lord. The idea of finding God in the whisper is one attuned to this time of year and this, although not in sync with our Advent readings, begins the very first Advent reflection for 2010.
(Editor's note: I often take my inspiration for blog posts from the readings at mass and/or the homily. As I sat in church today and listened to Deacon Chuck's words I knew that they were not the inspiration for the post, but that they were the post. He graciously gave me his homily text to publish here.-Fran)
We heard in our first reading from the first book of Kings "...after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave."
King Ahab's reign was marred by spiritual compromise and failure. He had taken a foreigner, Jezebel, as his queen and she was despised by those who were faithful to Yahweh. She had replaced the priests of God with priests of her foreign gods, To understand this reading, we need a little background from the Book of Kings. The IsraeliteBa'al and Asherah. Only the prophet Elijah stood up to Jezebel. In the book of Kings, we are told that Elijah challenged Jezebel's prophets to determine who was the true God. The false prophets called on their gods and Elijah called on Yahweh to see which would rain fire from heaven and consume their offerings. After the false prophets failed, Elijah repeatedly pour water over the offering and wood on his altar. In response to Elijah's prayer, God rained down fire to consume his offering, the wet wood and even the stone altar. When all the people saw what had happened, they fell on their knees and cried that "The LORD indeed is God."
Jezebel was angry and ordered that Elijah be killed. And for a time, Elijah in his fear, forgot about what God had done. Elijah ran as far and as fast as he could. God's angels guided him through the wilderness for forty days, strengthening and feeding him, until at last Elijah came to a cave on the side of Mount Horeb, the mountain where Moses had received the Ten Commandments.
It was there that the word of the LORD came to him, asking what he was doing there. Elijah responded that he had upheld the law and God's covenant, which the Israelites had forsaken. He cried that he was alone and that they were seeking his life. God told him, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD will be passing by." It was at that point that we heard in the first reading there was a great wind that split the mountain and broke rocks, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, a tiny whispering sound. When Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
We don't have to be a prophet to hear the voice of God. But we do have to listen. Sometimes to listen to the tiny, whispering sound of God.
For just a moment, think quietly to yourself, about how you would answer the question - Where is God? Where do you go to find God? Do you always find God there? Where is God, right now, in the moment for us?
Aren't we all too preoccupied and surrounded by too many distractions, too much noise, hunger, thirst and weariness, worry and fear, busyness and routine, to hear God speaking to us? We have all been taught to say daily prayers. But probably there is a piece of our prayers that is missing and it may take us some time to realize what is is. We need to stop long enough to listen. It is hard to hear God when our prayers are a one sided conversation.
The moment of prayer must be for us an awareness, a reawakened awareness. In prayer, the real person we are struggles to speak and to address God and to listen to God.
Like Elijah's earthquake, wind and fire, life rushes by and around us, sweeping us along and we become so terribly accustomed to the pace. But every once in awhile, the voice of God cuts thought the fury that surrounds us and whispers in our ear, as He whispered in Elijah's ear... "What are you doing here?" Can we step off the stage of our life long enough to listen for God, long enough to commune with God? Can we come out of the cave and experience the tiny whisper in the silence? This is at the heart of what we do when we come to worship. We come to listen for the whisper of God. For God is in every moment, even the hurried ones.
Catherine Doherty, foundress of the Madonna House in Ontario, Canada, a training center for the Catholic lay apostolate wrote: "A day filled with noise and voices can be a day of silence, if the noises become for us the echo of the presence of God, if the voices are for us messages and solicitations of God. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind. When we repeat the intimate words of God that He has left within us, our silence remains intact."
The point is that God is always seeking to be present to us. It is we who tune God out and cease to listen. It is we who define that this particular time is a God moment. Elijah heard God in the tiny whisper, but let's look at the story again... God was with him on the mountain top when he challenged the false prophets. God was with him in his journey through the wilderness. God was with him in the cave during the earthquake, wind and fire. But is was only in the tiny whisper that Elijah finally heard God. Can we come to know that God is here now - wherever here and now may be? Can we see God in the mundane and the miraculous? Can we listen for the whisper of God, even in the midst of our busy days? Can we redefine our lives to see God in EVERY moment?