August 13, 2023

Today, we celebrate the 19th Sunday in the season of Ordinary Time. While I normally focus on the Gospel readings during Ordinary Time, today’s first reading from the Old Testament provides us with an interesting reflection.

Like most prophets, Elijah angered some important and powerful people with his preaching. Queen Jezebel was one of those offended by Elijah’s message and actions. He took on the priests of the false god, Baal, and utterly defeated them. This outraged Queen Jezebel. Elijah spends forty days fleeing from her soldiers and takes refuge in a cave at Mount Horeb (Sinai). Burnt out and exhausted, he wants to give up and drop the mantle of his office as prophet. God desires to assure him that he has not been abandoned and invites him to the mouth of the cave to await the appearance of the Lord. There he experiences a strong, heavy wind, an earthquake and a powerful fire. But God was not in those grand forms of natural phenomena, as Elijah expected. When he hears “a tiny whispering sound,” he senses God’s presence in that surpassing calm. Elijah returns to the cave, realizing that God is not found in the expected forms, but God comes in surprising ways. Elijah knew that God had more surprises in store for him.

Again and again, the Scriptures challenge us to let go of our expectations of how God is supposed to act and where God is supposed to be found. God rarely acts in the ways that we expect God to act! Instead, God comes in surprising ways that, at times, we do not expect. Our call is to be alert for the amazing and marvelous ways God reveals his presence to us, day after day.

Pope Francis recently shared a reflection that echoed the invitation to recognize God’s presence in the unexpected. He wrote, “This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: ‘My child, treat yourself well, according to your means…Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment’ (Sir 14:11, 14).” We can often fill our days with unreasonable expectations of ourselves, our children, our colleagues, or our weekends. We set standards that probably will never be met. When we receive a new invitation, a little voice in our heads begins to tally all the things that might fall short of our expectations. God’s invitation is simple – “Don’t miss the surprises.” When we stop looking for disappointing gaps and start looking for inspiring gaps, we begin to see more than we could imagine of the ways in which God is trying to reach us through the unexpected.

When we find ourselves running from event to event, from place to place, wishing that there were a few more hours in the day, we lose sight of the big picture. Our individual concerns take on a life of their own and can become the most important issues in the world. It is very easy for us to lose perspective with the pace at which we live. Sometimes we need a good reality check – “Don’t miss the surprises.”  When we realize that Some One else is in control, we can see order and beauty all around us. We can hear that “tiny whispering sound” and recognize God is all around us, in spite of our expectations.

I hope that each of us has a chance to step back and see the big picture, that we experience some of the calming moments that summertime can bring, and that those moments can help us to notice things that have always been there, but that we have never really seen before.

This Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is a major feast day of our church and a holy day of obligation. We celebrate our belief that Mary, at the moment of her death, was assumed body and soul into heaven, where she lives with her son. Please see our Holy Day Mass schedule in the bulletin and on our website.

Tuesday’s Feast of the Assumption usually signals the end of summer for me. Parish life dramatically picks up after this feast, as we prepare for the beginning of the school year. Local High School fall sports officially began last Wednesday, and our Grade School begins classes this Wednesday.

There really are a few more days of summer. Let’s take advantage of them. And let us remember in prayer all those who are traveling at this time of year. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.

– Father Jim Murphy