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OUR GOD IS A GENTLE GOD

Father Francis's picture
Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19: 9. 11-13

Today's reading from the First Book of Kings presents us with the prophet Elijah who, like us, learnt from personal experience that life sometimes can be difficult and discouraging. Anyone who has reached early adulthood knows life is not a bed of roses. Amid the fun and games there are often sweat and tears in the duties and demands of the daily routines.

This is the part of life that can sometimes be the most difficult to handle. A crisis can be like a 100 metre dash in which you marshal all your strength for one brief and breathless sprint to the tape. That is a demanding race, but win or lose it is quickly over. After that you start to breathe easily again. But the daily routine of life is like a marathon in which the test is not speed but endurance. There are times when you hit what is called ‘the wall’ and it just becomes a matter of putting one foot in front of the other with the end nowhere in sight. I can vouch for this - and I have been in only three marathons! The major concern for most people in this kind of race is not winning but just finishing.

I strongly suspect that this was what Elijah was feeling. It was not just the threat of Jezebel that caused him to run away. It was the unrelenting struggle of daily living. The battle of life had taken its toll and so he ran away and hid himself in a cave and wished to die.

This picture of Elijah should be a source of encouragement to us. It is a reminder that even the great men and women in the Bible at times found life a heavy load to carry. Handling the daily responsibilities is no easy task – for them or for us. To keep going to a boring job every day, to keep rearing children even though it sometimes seems an unending and thankless burden, to keep caring in the midst of indifference, to keep loving in the midst of hatred. In these circumstances the individuals involved are acting with genuine heroism. They are among the many unsung heroes in our world. To live life consistently and courageously is no small achievement.

Now let us consider another lesson Elijah learnt in that mountain cave. There he witnessed dramatic scenes as the elements displayed their awesome power. A mighty wind was so strong that it dislodged rocks and sent them crashing down the slopes, but Elijah could not see God in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not to be found in that. A fire might have been supernatural, or maybe a flash of lightening ignited the trees, but whatever the cause Elijah could not find God in the fire.

Finally, when it was all over and the mountain became quiet once more, Elijah heard a tiny whispering sound. Wrapping his face in his mantle he knew he was in the presence of God and had learnt a vital lesson - that God is not only powerful but He is also gentle. And what he needed at that moment was not a God of wind or fire, or with a voice of thunder, but a God Who knew how to whisper. We too have that same need. When life gets tough, let us not look for God in the dramatic but seek a God who is gentle and caring.

This is one of those truths which, for some reason, seems hard to learn, and yet we find it all through the Bible. In a psalm we read, “As a father feels sympathy for his children, so does the Lord.” You don’t scold a child when he is frightened. You don’t shout at him when he is exhausted to the point of tears. You treat him gently, and so does God. He is wiser and more tender than any human parent.

One of the most astounding verses is to be found in the Book of Revelation where the Lord says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door, I will come in.” You appreciate the significance of that if you have ever tried to see an important person. Firstly, you have to deal with a secretary who asks many questions before you are asked to wait, before being told the person is too busy to see you today and can you leave a card!

If ever you have had that experience, you know just how small it can make you feel. But the incredible truth with God is that you are the important person, and He is the One in the waiting room. God, with all His power, has such enormous respect for our frailty and freedom that He will stand at the door, knock and wait for us to invite Him in.

Lord Jesus, I believe that is an accurate picture of the gentleness of God and I hope I never keep You waiting, but open the door of my heart at Your first knock.

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