When I first began to wander into the historic Church, one of the things I had to get used to was a lectionary. For my self sufficient, individualistic Protestant mindset, I was sure I didn’t need anyone to tell me what I should be reading from the Bible and when. But then I began to pay attention to the readings and I saw something amazing.
I began to see the Bible as a whole. Now yes, I had known that for awhile but we get lost sometimes I think in our “Bible reading plan.” We forget that the Old Testament and the New Testament are two sides to the same coin. I believe it was St. Augustine who said,
“The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
If we view this from a Christological standpoint (as we should when we come to ALL of Holy Scripture), then one could say that, in the OT we see Christ concealed or foreshadowed and in the NT we see Christ revealed.
I find such great richness in reading Holy Scripture this way, seeing it all as one organic whole.
Today’s readings for Mass illustrated this perfectly. The Old Testament lesson (reading) is from 1 Kings 19:9-13. I want us to consider verses 9 through the end of the chapter. You can go and read that now before proceeding. Elijah has just hiked for 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God.
The place is super important in the Bible. This is the mountain where the law was given to the people of God who had just left slavery in Egypt. This is the mountain where God had revealed Himself to both Moses and the people of Israel. This is where Elijah has come. And why has he come?
He came to complain.
Look at the text. God asks Elijah what he’s doing there. Elijah replies by complaining. He basically says, “Look, I’ve been faithful. I’ve done what you asked me to do. But everyone else has abandoned you, no one worships you anymore. I’m the only one left and they want to kill me.”
And what does God say? He says, “Go out and stand on the mountain.” So Elijah does. The Scripture tells that a strong wind tore the mountain, breaking rocks before the Lord. An earthquake shook the mountain and fire scorched everything in sight. But the Lord was not in the wind or the quake or the fire. Then Elijah hears a whisper, a still small voice and he recognizes that Voice. He wraps his face in his cloak and goes out to hear what God will say.
Now, let’s skip to the gospel reading for the day. St. Matthew’s gospel, chapter 14, verses 22-33. Go and read that before proceeding.
Jesus was also on a mountain, but praying, not complaining. When He comes down, the boat that His disciples took is a long way from shore and a wind has come up. Sound familiar?
So Jesus saunters up the boat…on the water. And, rightly so, the disciples are terrified. But, Jesus speaks. He speaks over the wind, telling them not to be afraid and assuring them that it is He. Then something really crazy happens. Peter says, in essence, “Jesus, I want you to prove that it’s you and I’m not seeing things. If it’s you, command me to come out to you on the water.”
In my mind, when I close my eyes and put myself there, I believe Jesus whispered. I believe His voice was so soft, so quiet in the chaos of the moment, with the wind howling and waves crashing. But Peter heard Him. Peter heard the whisper and he knew that voice.
That was the voice of God-in-the-flesh. That was the voice of One who walked on water, that was the voice of the One who had healed the sick and cleansed the lepers. That was the voice that Peter would follow forever.
So Peter steps out and walks on water. But it didn’t take long for Peter to fear. It didn’t take long for what was going on around Peter to distract him, to cause his faith to waver.
Elijah had the same problem. Elijah was discouraged and afraid. Elijah was distracted by the faithlessness of the people around him and it caused his faith to waver.
But here’s where we have hope.
That voice still speaks. That still, small whisper that spoke to Eiljah still speaks. If you read the rest of the chapter, God tells Elijah that there are thousands more like him, thousands more who are faithful.
That voice still speaks. That calm, still voice still beckons Peter from the boat and tells him not to be afraid. ‘Don’t be distracted. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be faithless.’
All of Holy Scripture, all of life is about Jesus, the Christ of God. God-in-the-flesh has come. He still speaks to us, even when our faith is weak. He still speaks amidst the chaos of our world; not in the crashing of the wind and rocks tearing up around us, nor in the fire that seems to burn our very world away, nor in the crashing waves or rushing winds of the storm. He still speaks in that still, small voice, beckoning us to follow, be faithful, step out and fear not. When we are faithless, He is faithful.
He is faithful.
He is faithful.
Amen and amen!