A number of years ago we had a priest helping in the parish on weekends. He preached the sermon one Good Friday. He told me before hand not to get nervous; he knew what he was doing. He went to the pulpit after the reading of the Passion and stood there in absolute silence. We waited and waited for him to begin. He finally said, “we’ve just had a minute of silence.” He asked, “how many of you were uncomfortable, uneasy, and unsure of what was going on?” I think the whole church was. But then he spoke about the silence of Calvary and how we really find it hard to deal with silence.
Elijah’s life was in turmoil, in fact it was in danger. He had slain the prophets of Baal and Queen Jezebel wanted him dead. He goes to Mount Horeb to commune with God. But God does not show up in the mighty gales or crashing rocks or the fiery extravaganza; Elijah heard God in sheer silence. In the gospel Peter hears God in the midst of the storm at sea when Christ calls out, “take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” God can speak to us in any and all the circumstances of our lives. The psalmist tells us ‘if today you hear God’s voice harden not your heart. God’s voice can be heard in still silence or it can be heard in the turmoils that often upset our lives.
Some people imagine that God is found only in the gentle whisper, in some nook of isolation, on a mountain of retreat in some quiet place. But that could lead us to think that God has forgotten us when our lives are in turmoil. Dare we have the trust that the grace of God, the strength of God, the patience of God is with us on days of conflict and struggle. Can we trust the truth that whether in dramatic or unassuming ways, the storm at sea or in sheer silence on the mountain, God continually moves toward us? Can we move toward God in trust? Can we believe God is present in the midst of a misunderstanding between husband and wife even if they are having a battle royale? In that storm God can be calling them to patience and understanding. The same can be true in the struggle between parents and a son or daughter. God may be telling parents to trust their instincts, trust their insights. God can be present to someone sinking into a depression, reaching out for help as Peter reached out to Christ. God can be present in our struggles with our faith especially in the light of recent scandals in our church. The same can be said when we are anxious about job security or the failing market, when we are facing the limitations of failing health, or trying to cope with the death of someone we loved. If we are listening, in any and all such circumstances we can hear Christ say to us, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.”
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray we all be graced with the gift to listen in silence and in storm and hear the words of Christ, “Take heart it is I, do not be afraid.”