Focus on His Presence | Friar Reflections | Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

In 1964, Simon & Garfunkel released their album “Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.,” which included the song “The Sound of Silence.” According to Art Garfunkel, the song symbolizes the “inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly intentionally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”

I think we can all find some agreement with that sentiment being valid today. We are bombarded with 24-hour news cycles and social media ad nauseum, and as such there is still a deafening silence all around us as we observe the world through constant sound bites and distortion. Everyone wants our attention to improve their own algorithms in order to validate themselves or what they have to say, and perpetrate more unsolicited ads, because more “hits” usually just means more money from advertisers. We may see each other in passing, but do we really communicate? SO MUCH NOISE!

Well, all I can say is, “thank God for the Prophet Elijah!” The first book of Kings relates the story of Elijah’s finding God in the “sounds of silence.” The Prophet Elijah discovered that God wasn’t to be found in the turbulence and destruction of strong winds, crushing rocks, earthquakes, or fire. God was found in a tiny whispering sound. The paradox of a sound in silence alludes to the transcendent, even the inexplicable presence and activity of God. It seems that Elijah’s God is not one of power and might, but one of a quiet and awesome presence. Once Elijah realizes God’s presence, like Moses before him, he covers his face.

Just being in silence is a discipline. It doesn’t come easy. While sitting in silence, our minds are constantly engaged with our many thoughts which we cannot simply turn off. They constantly distract us. Our challenge is, like Elijah, to not allow the distractions of our thoughts or surroundings to take away from our focus in searching for God. Elijah was focused on identifying the presence of God. God is always and everywhere present to us.

In our Gospel this weekend, we hear about a commotion on the sea where Jesus’ disciples are in a boat being tossed about, afraid for their lives. Peter, who was commanded by Jesus to come towards him walking on the water, quickly begins to sink after only a few steps. Peter lost his focus. He allowed the elements and sounds around him to distract his coming to Jesus, much like the distractions of social media can distract us as Catholics if we allow them to. Jesus saves Peter and calms the sea, in turn saving not only the boat carrying his disciples, but every other boat on the sea that night.

Our challenge and our prayer is to focus on the presence of God and our relationships with one another. For all of the good that social media and instant information may bring to us, there is also a liability in allowing it to consume us. Listen intently to the sound of silence in your own lives, and like Elijah, you, too, will hear the whisper and feel the presence of God and find the ability to love one another.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack