Between the gentle breeze and the ghost
A reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
by Martín Valverde
I have always admired the amount of teaching and the coordination between the readings of our Eucharistic Celebration, as is the case for this Sunday.
In the first reading the great prophet Elijah has an appointment with God. He is inside a cave waiting for the moment to be with Him. Suddenly a hurricane-like wind breaks loose – those who have been in the midst of tornadoes or cyclones know that this is no laughing matter. Then an earthquake happens; it happens quickly when you read it, but those of us who have been in several earthquakes know what it means for the earth to move under our feet. And finally a fire is unleashed – all of this, taken by God to another level. There’s also the small detail that these three events have the quality of being destructive.
This modern age is so full of scenery and paraphernalia, where production is concerned; visual or sound effects end up being more important than the final content. It is quite a challenge not to give them more importance than they deserve, even if they delight the senses.
The news is that God was not in any of the three situations. Without denying that fire, strength, and greatness can accompany Him, it is clear from the passage that God was not there.
Elijah reacts to the sound of a gentle breeze; he covers his face and leaves the cave in order to meet with God.
There is in all of us a part that expects God to present Himself with a certain greatness that is proper to His dimensions, although we are far from understanding it as such. The simplicity of God is not at odds with His greatness; in the end, His greatness can be recognized in the simple way in which it is presented: “This is my body.”
In Psalm 85 there is a declaration of the closeness of God that strengthens the reality of the gentle breeze of the first reading and that our soul can feel when we know it to be near: “The Lord proclaims peace. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land.” The psalm mentions qualities that, unlike in the first reading, are not measurable, such as kindness and truth, justice and peace. With all certainty, God exists in these and they are qualities of God Himself. Today we are certain that He is not only near to us; we know that He is with us.
Suddenly, in the second reading we read from Paul, sad because his people, who are also the Chosen People – and they could flaunt it – do not accept or recognize the Messiah in Jesus. Their expectation of a Messiah did not coincide with Jesus. It is not easy to accept a gentle breeze when you are expecting a hurricane, an avenging Messiah. Trust in the mercy of God, keep on praying for your own, and be sure that one day they will meet Him without further requirements.
And finally, we meet the disciples in the boat (Pope Francis made it clear that we are all in the same boat
). Jesus had forced them to go on the lake without Him, and after an exhausting day they were completely tired, facing the waves and the wind that were against them. (Any resemblance to what we are living in these times is more than purely coincidental.)
Jesus has been watching them and has been watching over them the whole time. Before dawn, in the darkest moment, Jesus goes towards them, but He does not go in another boat. He walks! In his version of this same passage, St. Mark (6:45-52) says that Jesus “was about to pass by them”, like someone walking in the park and greeting a group of friends (Good evening, what a wind!).
It is logical to think of the reaction of the disciples: They start yelling, terrified, thinking and screaming that they are seeing a ghost. (Jesus came walking, not surfing or skiing on the water.) When was the last time you saw a friend of yours walking on the water?
Use all your imagination in order to see them scared, to hear Jesus shouting to them, “It is I!” And to enjoy Peter's initial reaction in saying, “If it is you, command me to come to you.” I am certain that while Jesus was pulling Peter out of the water, He was doing it with a big smile saying, “Why did you doubt?”
Today in our “new normal”, our new reality, full of pandemic and viruses like COVID-19, of racism and hatred, we have to discover Jesus as a gentle breeze, full of peace and strength. Today, in the midst of all that we live, let us accept that He can walk in the midst of our storms, as individuals and as a country. Let His voice reach into our being and hear Him say, “TAKE COURAGE, DO NOT BE AFRAID. IT IS I.”
(translated from the original Spanish by Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann)
The readings for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Martín Valverde is a Mexican singer/songwriter and evangelizing pioneer. He was born in Costa Rica, and for more than 40 years his ministry has taken him throughout the American continent and Europe. He is the author of hundreds of songs and multiple recordings in four languages. He lives in Jalisco, Mexico, with his wife Elizabeth Watson with whom he has three children.