God’s Epiphanies in our life

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Romans 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Matthew 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

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!

References:
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

Posted: August 9, 2020

Grace Liu

 
作者阿信為天主教徒,香港聖神修院宗教學學士(夜間神學首間畢業生)。香港中文大學翻譯系碩士,羅馬傳信大學神學碩士(S.T.L.)。一直從事翻譯及英語教授工作, 曾為香港公教真理學會翻譯多本作品。著作有:「驀然回首 ─ 靈修之旅」(論盡神學出版社,2004年),「寄往天鄉的信」 (論盡神學出版社,2005年),「呵氣如蘭:舊約聖經硏讀及反省」(塔冷通心靈書舍出版,2010年) ,「上主的照拂•如蘭 – 香在無心處」(塔冷通心靈書舍出版, 2018年)。阿信現居溫哥華,致力推廣聖經閱讀,主要是向教友介紹釋經家對聖經的看法,在堂區主持聖言邂逅團體已近廿年,分別主持舊約及新約聖經課程。 Grace is a holder of Sacred Theology Licentiate, Pontifical Urban University of Rome. Bachelor of Religious Sciences & of Sacred Theology, Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology & Philosophy (H.K.). Master of Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Grace has translated many works for the HK Catholic Truth Society and has been working as English tutor. She is the author of 4 books, one of which is on the reading and reflections of the Old Testament. Grace has been O.T and N.T instructor of the Encounter of the Word Bible group in her parish for over 20 years.


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