Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: WHERE IS GOD?
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday August 9 2020
The year 2020 that would be remembered in the history of the world as the year in which Corona Virus ravaged people and nations and a year when people stayed indoors. A keyword of the year is ‘lockdown.’ In Nigeria, some of the sad stories of the year include the Abule-Ado bomb blast in Lagos, the on-going onslaught of Boko Haram, many cases of kidnappings, the ruthless killings by Herders, Jihadists and ethnic jingoists. Insecurity has become an order of the day and many people suffer because of an attitude of negligence by political leaders.
Good people suffer pains and tragedies and this brings us to another age-old question: “Why do good people suffer?” For example in biblical stories and 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. Elijah was a good man with high reputation among his people. He was a worker of miracles who convinced his people to turn away from idols and return to Yahweh, God of Israel. He preached about faithfulness to Yahweh and had many confrontations with a wicked and unjust king Ahab. Ahab was determined to kill him and he hid in a cave for safety. Elijah was so vulnerable that his people must have been asking, “Where is your God?” The people could not understand why a good man of his status should suffer humiliation in the hands of a mere mortal.
Has his God failed? Elijah himself was in a state of despair. He complained 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).
We hear St. Paul voicing his own deep frustration when his effort to convert his fellow Jews was not yielding good results. He says: 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 (Romans 9:2-3).
God communicated to Elijah during his moment of depression in symbolic ways. He reached out to him through natural elements fire, and earth (aria, ignis, and terra). Yes, he 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.
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.
Come to think of the meaning life 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 but 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. Our most interesting personal, family and community stories are always about how we got out of a dark and gloomy tunnel of life. These stories are often about how God turned some hopeless situations into a happy one or how one disappointment or the other turned out to be a blessing. Paul rightly says our present troubles cannot be compared with the glory that comes after (Romans 8:18). Jesus is a personification of the image of God who is gentle, loving and one who cares and saves. He stepped in to help many people. He came to the rescue of his disciples who were caught in stormy waters and he stretched out his hands to save Peter from the drowning. 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; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33.