Those of us with a few grey hairs on our heads may find it hard to believe that the first human landing on the moon took place 48 years ago (1969). Medical procedures like open-heart surgery and transplants have now become routine, every day events. Today’s computer technology is such that a Smartphone has more computing power than the computer aboard the Apollo 11 space capsule. There is no doubt that humanity has come a long way in its use of technology and science. And yet today there is a renewed interest in spiritual enlightenment and fulfilment. The fact is that many of us have come to realise that for all our technological wizardry and medical advances we are still far from creating, what Aldous Huxley called, a ‘Brave New World’. Here we are in the 21st century and we are still surrounded by war, hatred, starvation, disease and a host of other human ills.
Since the turn of the century and the new millennium, we have found it necessary to turn inwards. We find ourselves looking for experiences of the divine: while Mass attendance is falling, more and more people are getting involved in self-help workshops, 12-step programmes and various support groups. Now, while some of these programmes certainly have merit, they can be a bit like Elijah’s wind, earthquake and fire: in all the emotion and the pizzazz, and the group hugging and happy-clappying, we may miss God altogether.
Elijah expected to find God in the dramatic and powerful forces of nature. But God wasn’t to be found in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire; but in a tiny, whispering sound, a still, small voice that drifted on the breeze. The fact is that the power of God’s presence in such a small and seemingly insignificant setting was so great that Elijah hid his face, completely overwhelmed with the divine presence.
Today we might ask ourselves just where God is present in our lives. One of the ways in which we encounter God is in other people. And so do I see the face of God in the members of my community, in my friends, in my family, do I see God in the waitress at the restaurant, or in the cashier at the supermarket? We can see God’s presence in every single relationship and situation of our lives, but only if we allow ourselves the inner quiet to see God. And we don’t need dramatic shows of force or power to prove to us that God exists. Rather we need to develop this inner quiet, this inner peace of mind and spirit, so that we can hear the whispering voice of God speaking to us. The trouble is nowadays that we are all so caught up in noise and activity that we can’t hear God calling to us. You would be surprised at how many people complain that God is absent from their lives, as if he has abandoned them. The fact is that it is we who shut God out of our lives with a multitude of other concerns. If we are always talking, or tapping texts on our mobile phone, or have our ears plugged into our iPod, how can we hear the still, small voice of God speaking to us? God is constantly trying to get through to us but how will we ever hear his whispering voice unless we learn to take time out from the busy day and learn to be quiet, and especially before and after Mass. It amazes me that so many Catholics get caught up in Oriental meditation programmes, when the Church teaches us how to pray and meditate and how to get closer to God. And all it takes is a little effort and research to find a method of prayer that suits us. And there are plenty methods to choose from. The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic are a good a place as any to start.
We just heard in the Gospel how Saint Peter wanted to be included in Our Lord’s miracle, but Our Lord recognised the weakness of Peter’s faith and took the opportunity to teach him a valuable lesson. We too should learn that without a strong faith we will continue to falter and fail and sink into the stormy waters of sin and despair that seek to engulf us.
The acknowledgement of the disciples, “Truly you are the Son of God”, is at first glance, a reaction to the miracle of Our Lord walking on the water. But their profession of faith is, on a deeper level, a recognition that Our Lord knows the hearts of his followers.
Seeing Peter lose his nerve, Our Lord understood that, for all the blustering and evident self-confidence, Saint Peter was, like all of us, a person in need. And so, no matter who we are or what we do, we all suffer some weakness of faith, and only God can strengthen that faith.
And so, where is God to be found? Well, some of us do find him in the beauty and the majesty of nature. But Elijah’s experience tells us that God can be found within ourselves; in the still, quiet voice that each of us can hear, if only we would listen.
We all need to give ourselves the time and the space to hear God’s voice. If we are open and receptive we should be able to experience God’s presence during our celebration of the Mass as we unite ourselves to Him in faith. We can also experience God’s presence every day and every moment of our lives by allowing ourselves to recognise the ‘tiny whispering sound’ within.