Homily for August 7, 2011 – God is closer to us than we are to ourselves


Homily for August 7, XIX Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A year I

“Near indeed is the Lord’s salvation to those who fear Him.” This phrase from today’s responsorial psalm reflects a theme that we can find throughout today’s readings, and carries an important message for us.

The prophet Elijah, in the first reading today, is feeling discouraged. The people of Israel have rejected God and are seeking to kill Elijah for the things he has said and done as God’s last living prophet. So, he has fled into the desert and, with the God’s help and guidance, has arrived at Mount Horeb. Now, God promises to show His presence to Elijah in a special way. What is particularly interesting here is that the Lord is not in the unusual and spectacular events that follow – the fire, the storm, and the earthquake – but rather in the tiny whispering sound.

So here, God shows Himself not in the extraordinary things, but in the ordinary; the kind of thing that could be going on at any time without us even noticing it. Elijah is paying attention, so he hears the small sound and goes to meet God at the door of the cave, and God gives him further instructions as to what to do. So, if we want to know what God wants from us, we have to be sure we are paying attention to perceive God in the ordinary things around us. He is always present and near at hand, but He rarely forces Himself upon us.

In the Gospel reading, the disciples are in a boat, not a cave, but they also are surrounded by a storm. It seems that they are alone, but Jesus knows exactly where they are and what is happening. When Jesus decides to join them and comes to them walking on the water, they are terrified. Only Peter has the courage to speak to Jesus, and he asks the Lord to prove His identity by helping Peter walk on the water too. Jesus grants Peter his wish, and Peter steps out on the waves, but he is frightened by the storm and starts to sink. Jesus is immediately at Peter’s side, pulls him up, and calms the storm. Once again we see how the Lord is near to us, and ready to guide us and raise us up. We need to be willing to perceive Him even in unlikely places, and ready turn to Him in faith.

Faith really is key if we want to discover God’s presence, but not everyone has that gift. St Paul suffers greatly because most of the Israelites – the Jewish people, Paul’s own flesh and blood, family and friends – have not believed in Christ. In a way, Jesus is closer to the Jews than to anyone else; He was born into a Jewish family, and the Jewish religion is all a preparation for the coming of Christ. Jesus spent most of His life and ministry on earth with the Israelites. But even though Jesus was so close to them, many did not believe.

The Jewish people are a special case, and Pope Benedict XVI in the second part of his book “Jesus of Nazareth” makes it clear that they still play a special role in God’s plan, as Jews. However, we should pray for all people who do not believe in Jesus, and those who do not believe in God at all. May they discover that God is real and Christ is our Savior, that God loves us and is watching over us, and – in the beautiful but paradoxical expression of St Augustine – is “closer to us than we are to ourselves.”

About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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1 Response to Homily for August 7, 2011 – God is closer to us than we are to ourselves

  1. Lodewijk Langeweg says:

    God is closer to us than we are to ourselves because He has given Himself for us that His joy also be in us, and thus our joy be complete. By giving us Himself He gave us His Self. So He is our true Being, be it in the appearance of the sinful flesh. But the sinful flesh is not God’s true Being, and so it is not our true Being; God is.

    If a loving earthly father already wills for his children that they be at least as happy as he is, not less happy, shall God our heavenly Father not will that also we His beloved children be as happy as He is?

    And willing it, can He then not also accomplish it?
    And able to accomplish it, shall He not also be accomplishing it?

    He is accomplishing it, by taking on our human experience, experiencing everything we experience, as each and every one of us, even though compared to the infinitely great joy of God. experiencing being but a human in the appearance of the sinful flesh is like being nailed to “this body of death”, spiritually being tortured to death by the very being He thus is dying for, that also they have His Life and divine joy, when He also in us remembers: “I am God, not man, the holy One in the midst or center of who is reading this now. Closer to this one than this one is to this human appearance, for this is My human appearance.”

    Much divine Love indeed.

    “What He was, He laid aside; what He was not, He assumed.
    He takes upon Himself the poverty of my flesh so that I may receive the riches of His divinity.”

    ~St. Gregory of Nazianzus

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