19th Sunday Year A
August 10, 2014
One old, old Christmas song goes by the title “Whispering Hope.” I am sure everyone knows it by heart. It has to do basically with “rumors of angels,” giving hope to a world enslaved to sin, and its most disastrous effect – hopelessness.
I love nature. I have climbed dozens of mountains and forded countless rivers and have swum in many seas, both here (where I am) and abroad. Noisy and thunderous rivers there are that give a mighty roar offer a frightening message: “Don’t mess up with me if you are not prepared and ready to risk life and limb.” Three years ago, I, and some young priests I was giving a seminar to, discovered that first hand. Lucky me, I did not join them that time. Their boat capsized towards the end of their white water rafting adventure.
I love dogs. There are dogs that give such a row and rousing cacophony of snarls and growls and menacing barks. But experience tells me that for many dogs with such garrulous natures, their bark is actually worse than their bite. But I fear those silent ones that quietly glare at you with determined stares … and unimpressed, non-wagging tails.
Loud and noisy threats alone do not announce the coming of a battle-hardened and courageous general. In my years in leadership, particularly after doing so many fund-raising campaigns and the like, not all those who proclaim and announce their pledges for all men to hear actually make good their promises. On the contrary, it is the silent ones, who don’t ask for an accounting of the money they have not yet given, who end up contributing generously, in their own quiet, unassuming ways.
I love Elijah. He was not exactly one who would keep silent and still when his powerful voice was called for. He did not fade quietly into the night, but was whisked away dramatically on a chariot – definitely not a quiet way to go! But that is not what I love him for. I like Elijah because he was one who could see beyond the noise and the fanfare, and look deep down into the essences of things, and see what needed to be seen … for what it was, for who it was, even minus the sound and the fury.
I talk about God whispering hope to so many hopeless souls – a God now effectively shunted aside by the deafening noise of materialism and hedonism – two big words that hide behind the noisy and threatening allure of the faddish and the fashionable, brought about by the omnipresent and almost omnipotent mainstream media, and – for the local Philippine scene – a ridiculously inane “showbiz culture.”
I think about the sick, the poor, the suffering, and the forgotten: the homebound, the wheelchair-bound, the retired old teachers and honest public servants who are living out their twilight years practically alone, uncared for, unwanted, unappreciated and unheralded in their quiet lives, not of desperation, but of martyrdom. The God that they believe in does not come in as a swashbuckling hero with promises that sound like the annual SONA speech of someone whose noisy perorations and promises make it appear like he is the single biggest greatest thing that ever happened to the country and to humanity.
My thoughts go to simple people who, despite their poverty and want, could still find it in their hearts to part with what little they have because there were millions who had far less on account of the disastrous typhoon that wiped out the lives of thousands, and the livelihood of millions of people.
In the silence of their sorrowing and suffering existence, they find God who reveals Himself, precisely not in and through the voices of the comfortable and the powerful, but in and through the simple, still voice of the “tiny, whispering sound.”
Everywhere now, all over the world, there are strident voices that capture the attention – and the FEAR – of the lowly, the downtrodden, the forgotten, the last, the least, and the lowest. The terrorists now rule the day in both Iraq and Syria, threatening (and already actually snuffing out!) the lives of the minority Christians. Almost 300 people were blown out of the sky over the Ukraine, and nobody seems to take responsibility for the dastardly deed. In the local scene, billions of pesos have been stolen from the public coffers, reframed as “savings” and touted as instruments to prime the economy, but for which the perpetrators refuse to show proofs of defense other than the flimsy argument of “good faith.” Satan and his cohorts are very noisy and very noisily present in the world’s day-to-day affairs. The devil we know is active in the noise that masquerades as news to prop up political clans, parties, and dynasties and all the evil they do in “good faith.” The devil we do not know is also busy doing the rounds of mainstream media, institutions and even otherwise “honorable” and respectable institutions noisily preaching the postmodern virtue of tolerance for what is wrong, and still as noisily preach about intolerance for Christianity and, most especially, Catholicism and its teachings.
I personally feel like Paul, who, in today’s second reading, pours out his pain at the sight of so many rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, when all he knows is that he “speaks the truth in Christ.” Like him, “I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.”
The world is caught up in a maelstrom of hate, intolerance and the evils of “man’s inhumanity to man.” The little boat of the disciples suddenly caught in the middle of a violent squall out on the raging sea is not a farfetched image of where the world is in right now, even as we talk. The waves are both violent and vicious. The fear of the disciples is as real as it is realistic. Caught in such a predicament, it is easy for you and me (especially probably ME), to lose hope, to surrender to fear, and to curse the Lord for abandoning us.
But the Lord, who was silently in communion with His Father in prayer, was also thus in communion with everyone he loved and cared for. Prayer does not take us away from the objects of our love and solicitude. God is never a competition to our earthly cares and concerns, but is the world’s and humanity’s “ultimate concern,” that gives foundation and meaning to all other lesser concerns.
God is in charge. God cares despite what media tells us that “God is dead.” God loves us even if the world seemingly has forgotten us. But this truth is not something you can get from the noisy waves. This truth is not something one can arrive at in violence and viciousness; hatred and hubris; indifference and inattention. No … One has to listen and listen with one’s heart. “God is not in the wind … God is not in the earthquake … God is not in the fire.”
I won’t tell you where God is. He Himself tells us. You yourselves will discover that. God is present in stillness, simplicity, silence … God is present … God is. Period. And today is as good a day as any other for us to hear once more, with passion, not just with feeling … “Take courage. It is I; do not be afraid.”
He whispers life. He whispers salvation. He whispers hope!
“Lord, save me!” His answer is worth repeating: “Come!”