Finding God in the Gentle and Ordinary – Fr Harold Parilla

Matthew 14:22-33, 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gentle and Ordinary

One can define life as a journey of constant, restless seeking. As children, we spent our days looking for food, games and playmates. As we grew older, we shifted our search to friends, grades and achievement. As young adults, we looked for appropriate careers and significant relationships. We searched for potential mates because we want to start our own families. Years later, we wonder about deeper meaning and we long for lasting legacy. The seeking does not end.

Philosophers say we are actually in search of happiness. Our choices are motivated by the nagging desire to be happy. Theologians in turn claim that the happiness we are desperately looking for is really God. Many times we are simply unaware that we are projecting on to things and people our quest for the Transcendent.

If life is a series of searches, and we are relentless seekers, it is important to know where to find what we are looking for. If the Divine is the ultimate object of our seeking, the important question to ask then is, Where do I find God?

I believe the Readings for this Sunday provide us important clues on our seeking. One of these comes to us from the First Reading. There we are told about Elijah standing on a mountain and waiting for God. A windstorm came, followed by an earthquake, and then by fire. But Yahweh was not there in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire. Instead, contrary to expectation, He was in the “tiny, whispering sound”. In a manner of speaking, God was present in the gentle and ordinary.

There are times when we tend to read big events and important people as vehicles of God’s presence and message. When someone suddenly dies for example, or gets seriously sick, we gather our thoughts and all our wit to understand what just happened.

We are reminded, however, that God can be present, that He in fact can speak to us, in ordinary days and through simple people. Wasn’t it Jesus Himself who said that whatever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do it to me? (Mt 25:40). It is His way of saying that He is present in what we casually dismiss as insignificant or routinary.

Perhaps the invitation is to be sensitive and discerning precisely in the ordinary. To look at any experience or encounter as a vehicle of God’s presence and message. A beggar, for example, can be seen as God telling us to be kind and generous. Food on the table, no matter how modest, can be viewed as God nourishing us. The incessant rain at night can be God singing his lullaby to us, ushering us to a good sleep. Even our daily bouts with discomfort, irritation and impatience can be reframed as God pruning and molding us into becoming better versions of ourselves. There are no limits to Him saying to us that He is present and that He cares.

Indeed, as the Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins beautifully puts it, “The earth is filled with the grandeur of God”. This magnificence, I’d like to think, is expressed in a thousand little ways, waiting to explode in countless unassuming corners.

If we take the hint from the First Reading more seriously, then perhaps we can find what we are looking for. If we are able to locate God in small things, even in the here-and-now, how lovely and how happy our seeking – life itself – can truly be.

*Image from the Internet


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