19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: “And after the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound….”

Storm in the Mountains by Frederic Edwin Church. Courtesy of wikiart.org.

Note: Fr. Ed’s homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time is now available online! Click here to listen.

Special Effects

Many of the movies these days attempt to make their money by touting the new and bigger-than-ever special effects, especially those movies in, yes, I’ll admit it, my favorite genre, science fiction. Here in this wonderful reading from I Kings, you have just the reverse. In fact, the contrast is repeated, with the same admonition, three times: “but the Lord was not in the…”

This great and powerful prophet of God, who had just called down fire from Heaven to win the hearts of the Jews back to the Holy One of Israel, has this theophany at the Holy Mountain—and it was quite a show! Imagine a wind strong enough to shatter rock! Earthquakes, a rock-crushing gale, and a blast of fire—but in none of these was the presence of the Lord to be found. This great prophet knew the Holy One well enough to not confuse Him with His “special effects.” He covers his face as a sign of reverence and leaves the cave when he hears that tiny whispering sound—literally “a voice of quiet stillness”—because that, and not all the preceding commotion, was his cue that the Holy One was now present.

The Still Small Voice

Obviously, there can be times in our lives when the tumultuous, knocked-off-your-horse kind of event takes place. However, not only the Scriptures, but the testimony of many of the lives of the Saints point as well to the presence of that still small voice. The Carmelite mystics who take Elijah as their special patron are particularly fond of pointing out how being attentive to that still small voice is crucial for our prayer life.

This also applies to our work with other folks, especially in terms of trying to lead them more deeply into the Kingdom. A quiet, calm, loving response can sometimes do wonders to help folks make a better choice for the Lord Jesus. This applies, of course, to something as simple as gently inviting someone to Alpha. No fanfare, no brass band, just a gentle invitation that might have a life-changing consequence. The whole act of accompaniment, i.e., walking with someone on their faith journey, has that same kind of character. It is much more marked by quiet than by a lot of fanfare.

We also see this in the life of the Mother of God. The Lord Jesus Himself performs His first miracle as a result of her quiet suggestion.

Under Mary’s Care

Last weekend many folks came to hear Fr. Gaitley speak of her, especially in terms of the gift of mercy. This weekend, all of us in the Diocese of Lansing have been instructed by our Bishop to pray a special prayer that will consecrate us and all of our parishes in a special way to Mary’s care. Of course, since she is the patroness of our Diocese, that is already true, but our Bishop, wanting to take advantage of the grace of this great jubilee of the Fatima, has asked all priests to pray a prayer of consecration to Mary at the weekend Masses this weekend. This consecration, in part, states:

We consecrate ourselves and (name) Parish, this day and always, to your Immaculate Heart. Help us to persevere in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, and to advance the kingdom of Christ more effectively each day.

What a great prayer for us as we move closer to our launch of Alpha! As we all choose to continue to surrender our lives more deeply to the Lord Jesus, we do so with great hope that each and every one of us can help to “advance the Kingdom of Christ more effectively each day!” The Bishop has reminded us that as we open ourselves to the maternal care of the Mother of God, our ability to advance the Kingdom of her Son is enhanced, as she herself intercedes for us from Heaven. With her help, and always under His Lordship, our perseverance in prayer and penance can assist to build that Kingdom. As the consecration prayer points out, it is something that should be our goal every day. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! —Fr. Ed