1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A
The first reading today, 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a, is about God speaking to prophet Elijah in a light silent sound in the breeze, but before that, God has given Elijah a sign in the form of a cloud as small as a man’s palm to ensure His presence with him (1 Kings 18:43-45, NABRE).
1 Kings portrays Elijah challenging Baal’s prophets to see whose god can make it rain. In this story, Elijah crouches down to the earth putting his head between his knees and prays hard. He is loaded with worries, “What if God doesn’t respond?” He sends his servant many times to watch for the sign of a cloud; it is until the seventh time when he spots a cloud as small as a man’s palm, and finally God does send the rain! From this, we learn we need to wait with perseverance before we can have enough faith to see God’s epiphany.
However, Elijah has his vulnerable moments. His defeating Baal’s prophets doesn’t bring about King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s conversion; instead, Elijah is being prosecuted! The thought of savoring his success has then been replaced by bitter exile into the Negev wilderness. Feeling hopeless, he prays to die, but God sends his angels to strengthen him twice, urging him all the way to Mt Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8, NABRE).
On Mt Horeb, God then calls Elijah to come out from the cave and to stand before Him; Elijah does not find God in strong and violent wind, in earthquake, or in fire, but he finds God speak to him in a silent sound: “Why are you here, Elijah?” And Elijah replied, “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:13-14, NABRE). God understands Elijah’s worries; He prepares him his successor, Elisha, and plans everything for him (1 Kings 19:16-18, NABRE), although this would take some time for Elijah to realize. From this we learn we need to have faith in God’s timetable; and our faith needs time to grow as well. Why does God speak to Elijah in a silent sound? It is because God understands Elijah’s weakness; God knows Elijah need understanding, solace, and encouragement.
Today’s Gospel Matthew 14 portrays how the disciples’ boat is rocked by stormy waves, and how Jesus walks on stormy seas to reassure his disciples: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27, NABRE). In the Old Testament, rough seas stand for evil, but God is the only one who can overpower deadly storms: “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the back of the sea” (Job 9:8, NABRE). “I am ” in Greek is “Ego eimi”, which means the foundation and quality of all existence, so when Jesus said: “I am”, He reveals himself to be the everlasting God and Foundation of all existence. Now, Jesus, being the Foundation of all existence, would definitely save the disciples as described in Psalm 18: “He reached down from on high and seized me; drew me out of the deep waters. He rescued me from my mighty enemy, from foes too powerful for me” (Psalm 18:17-18, NABRE). Jesus also reveals his identity in Matthew 8:18-27 when he calms the storm. What is the meaning of Jesus’ epiphanies in these verses to the early church? Stormy seas represent hostile worldly powers and the challenges the early church faced: persecution from the opposing government; the slow growth of the church; the disciples’ feeling that they had been abandoned by God, so the early church chose the episode of Jesus walking toward His disciples in the stormy sea to show God’s watching over them even at times of great trials; God who has power over nature has control over everything.
Both readings today are about God’s epiphany. God will offer us gentle solace when we are worried, and all we need are our patience and focused listening. God will reveal Himself in our trials, but we need relying faith; we need courage to respond like Peter, not being afraid since God will always lend us a hand: “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him” (Mt 14:30-31, NABRE).
Let’s praise God for His Epiphanies in our life!
1. Douglas Connelly, Elijah: Living Securely in an Insecure World in A Life Guide Bible Study, InterVarsity Press, IL, 2005, p 49-61.
2. Antony F. Campbell and James W. Flanagan, 1-2 Samuel in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by R.E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer and R. E. Murphy, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1990, p 145-195
3. Elijah Standing before God, Ordinary time the 10th week, Friday, https://www.ccreadbible.org/Members/Bona/ccreadbible/maindata/2012/06/2012-06-15.html
4. Jesus “appeared” at the Sea (Mt 14:22-23), https://www.ccreadbible.org/Members/Bona/For-Bible/GosepelsMeaning/sundaygosepel/Year_A/OrdinarySunday_A/19th