Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church
(I Kings 19:9a, 11-16)
The “tiny, whispering sound” conveying the presence of the Lord to Elijah is better translated the “sound of silence.” God visits him, as He does each of us, in the silent chamber of conscience where He tempers our pride and chastises our sloth.
The Lord’s question of Elijah, “Why are you here?” is both rhetorical and accusatory. God knows well that Elijah has chosen to run away from his responsibilities as prophet. Elijah must speak the word of God in order to turn the people’s hearts back to God. But the prophet only complains about his lot: the people have abandoned God, they have killed God’s messengers, and they are presently hunting down Elijah himself. God, however, does not condemn Elijah for irresponsibility and endless complaints. He only re-commissions Elijah to carry out His will.
Sometimes we feel discouraged like Elijah. Nothing seems to go right despite our efforts to please God. We too complain about our situation and perhaps become cynical about possibilities for its improvement. A generation ago Henry Nouwen wrote a pamphlet “From Resentment to Gratitude” which explored these feelings of frustration and anger that pervade contemporary life. As an antidote, Nouwen prescribes humbly refocusing our perspective. He writes that we must see “that our life is not an inalienable property to be defended but a gift to be shared.” Recognizing life for the gift that it is, we can leave behind our pouting to do God’s will.