1 Kings 19:9, 11-16; Psalm 27; Matthew 5:27-32
The Gospel today shows Jesus reinterpreting the Law with something stricter. It shows the need to open our hearts and mind to what God wants to reveal. We cannot assume we know what God is telling us because he is beyond our understanding. This is what Elijah experienced in the First Reading.
The First Reading skips from yesterday’s reading which narrates of the contest between Elijah and the false prophets. After defeating and killing the false prophets, Elijah went back to the capital city. And instead of being thanked, for what he did, the queen made an oath to kill him. Elijah had to leave and walked through the desert until he reached the mount of God. There, he waited. There was great wind that the the rocks were breaking, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake and fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Elijah knew he was before God.
The wind, the earthquake and fire are theophanies or manifestations of God in the Old Testament, yet, the Word tells us, God is not there. Instead, God is in the silence. How is this relevant to us today, in this pandemic? Perhaps, this pandemic is a call to see God differently. Instead of seeing him doing mighty deeds around us, we need to meet God in the silence. Before the pandemic, the world was noisy and bright. People live comfortably. We find it hard to listen to God because of all the noise in our lives. Then suddenly, there was silence. Everything was shutdown, everything is closed. Now, hopefully, nothing distracts us from what God wants to say.
What is God saying to us? He asks us the same question he asked Elijah: What are you doing here? What are we doing here, on this earth, at this place and time? We may answer like Elijah, I have been very zealous for the Lord. I have done this, tried to live my life the best I can. I have done that, tried to do what I think is your will. And now, I am all alone, helpless, there is no one to trust. Instead of assuring Elijah God tells him to go back where he came from and anoint Hazael as king of Aram and Jehu as king of Israel. Elijah is also to anoint Elisha as his successor. This seems cruel of God. He did not even comfort Elijah but instead, told him to go back to work.
The fact that God tells Elijah to go back to work indicates God is still with him. The same thing for us in this pandemic. We may feel helpless or overwhelmed or burnt out. And it is in this moment, God speaks to us, reminding us to go back to our daily lives, to pick up from what was lost and continue to live because he is with us in the darkness and dullness of life. In this situation, God may not respond with a miracle. Instead, God is here, present with us, silently accompanying us in the darkness until all this has passed. When the angel of death passed by the land of Egypt, it passed over the houses that had blood on the doorposts. They were still in the dark, but they know God is with them, even as death was around them.
In this darkness and emptiness, God calls us to listen to him so we can know him. We will not see him in signs of power. Instead, we know him in the silence. Today, God reveals himself in a new way. The Psalm is a fitting prayer: Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. In the darkness, we can only cry out to God to show his face. We are confident, he will answer but not in the way we expect. God speaks in silence. Come, meet him in the silence and darkness.
Lord, in the darkness that surrounds me today, I cry to you: be gracious to me and answer me! My feelings betray me, telling me you have abandoned me, but you O Lord are faithful. You hear me when I call. I seek you alone Lord in the midst of this darkness. Show your face to me Lord so I can see your goodness. Do not hide your face from me. Be with me in the midst of this darkness and death. Speak to me in this silence.