REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
HOMILY THEME: WHERE IS GOD?
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: 6th August 2017 was a bloody day, which we will always remember. It was a day when gunmen stormed into a Church, killed several worshippers and left many others with fatal injuries. This sad event, which happened at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu belongs to a sad page in history. I wish to use this medium to extend my condolences to families that suffered the loss of their loved ones and to the Bishop and people of Nnewi Diocese. This kind of unfortunate incident makes us ask a salient question: Where is God when bad things happen? This kind of question often comes to mind in moments of calamities and disasters. Our image of God changes for better or worse in moments of anguish, pain, loss, grief, tragedies or catastrophe. In dark days of life we tend to embrace our faith more strongly or we simply walk away and give up our faith. Unfortunate situations leave us confused and lukewarm in faith, as we struggle to deal with intense trauma.
A situation like this gruesome attack of innocent worshippers leaves us shell shocked. Good people suffer pains and tragedies and this brings us to another age-old question: “Why do good people suffer?” For example in real life we pass through trials and hear of many good people who experience several misfortunes. There are no easy answers as to why these tragedies happen. Ahab was determined to kill Elijah and so the prophet hid in a cave for safety. Has his God failed? Elijah himself was in a state of despair. He complained bitterly with a loud voice: He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). He was deep in the valley of frustration and honestly requested for death. He said: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4).
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Frustrations and despair are not easy conditions to manage. In moments of pain and confusion we hear multiple voices and we conceive all kinds of ideas – the good, not so good and the bad. It was during the tough times that God communicated to Elijah in symbolic ways. He reached out to him through the classical natural elements fire, and earth (aria, ignis, and terra). Yes, God spoke and still speaks through nature. 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.
These three natural elements – fire, earth, and wind are both life giving and life threatening. In these symbols God must have been saying to Elijah:
“You think of me as a destructive fire, but I am the gentle fire of the Holy Spirit that inspires passion, enlightens, that gives energy; You think of me as a devastating wind, but I am the wind which is the breath of life, the fresh air of the atmosphere that changes seasons; You think of me as catastrophic earthquake, but I gently reside in the land that produces the fruits of the earth.”
Fire, earthquake and wind also describe the inner state of Elijah. They describe his restlessness, anger, and impatience. The gentle breeze is the sign of God’s patience and intervention in our moments of anguish and confusion. Therefore, God has the power to transform the fire into a gentle fire (tongues of flame), the turbulent waters into a beautiful fountain, and the tumultuous earth into a gentle productive ground in the same way that he changed the serious wind into a gentle breeze. He shows himself as the supernatural being that intervenes when nature and creation groan and revolt.
This special encounter with God must have changed the way in which Elijah saw God. At some stage in our lives, we had wrong notions of who God is and even perceived God as a tyrant, in the same way a baby perceives a Doctor or a nurse who injects.
Come to think of what meaning life is when it is all about pain; and on the other hand, what meaning will life make when we are always comfortable? Even though God does not send evil, he permits it in his wisdom. He allows evil to afflict the comfortable and in his goodness and mercy he comforts the afflicted. We have to come to terms with the fact that we live in a world where order and disorder co-exist. In his book The Problem of Pain, the prominent author C. S. Lewis wrote, ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’
God steps in some many times and saves us from destruction. Everyone can count the number of times when he/she escaped death by the whiskers. When we see a terrible accident occur, with vehicles squeezed beyond recognition and passengers come out unhurt, we forget to give credit to the omnipotent God who intervenes and saves.
When someone says to me: “I hate God.” And I say to him, “What you actually meant to say was you do not like who you think God is.” If you truly know who God is and how much he loves you, you will not help but fall in deep love with him. Psalm 103:8 Paints the true picture of God: He is compassionate, gracious and abounding in love.
——————————————————- 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A;
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a;
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