The entrance to a cave on Mount Sinai
(1 Kings 19: 10-14 )
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
Our faith is tested to really see the reality of who it is we believe in. In other words, we have to go before the mouth of the cave, as Saint Elijah did, when he was on Mount Sinai. The Lord told him to go out before the mouth of the cave because He would be passing by. The Lord did not pass by in the many ways Elijah expected, not in the same ways that the eternal Lord and God manifested to Moses in Sinai, those magnificent ways, through the power of the elements of creation. All that took place before Elijah, but God wasn’t present there. He was present in an unexpected manner, in a way that surprised him; in a way that was utterly simple and ordinary, and yet the fullness of His presence was there, concealed and hidden.
The Spirit told Elijah inside of his soul to go out before the mouth of the cave, and there it was — God’s silent breeze. The breath of God passed by, and Elijah recognized whose presence he stood, and he bowed down in worship and adoring silence.
When we come to Carmel, oftentimes, there are a series of steps and graces that God gives us to be able to experience His call and to be convinced of it. Definitely, certain blessings accompany the graces, to build up our confidence, and our faith, hope, and love, to be able to abandon ourselves to that extent.
And then, when we finally enter, we might expect God to manifest in certain ways. We might expect certain things to happen, but sometimes, it doesn’t. Part of the spiritual life, inevitably, is that we become entirely aware – we thought and expected ecstasy. Instead, we are immersed in our own poverty, and so aware of the reality of our need for healing, in respect to what it means to be whole and holy in the Lord. That can be such a scandal to ourselves because we thought we were so much better than that!
Yet, God knew exactly who you were, better than you knew yourself, when He called you. You’re just starting to figure it out now. He knew who you were from the beginning, but He loved you anyway. Our weaknesses don’t get in His way, and neither does our poverty. Quite the contrary. Our weaknesses are where He wants to be born. That’s the manger. That’s the Bethlehem.
He doesn’t want the palace. He didn’t come for the perfect. He came for those who were lost and in need of Him, and who recognized their need for Him. He wants to be born in the mess of the manger. When He is born there, that mess can gradually become immaculate, amidst the messiness of it all. We can become so changed that what makes our lives most radiant, is the way God has touched us in our wounds, in the way God has transfigured us in our weakness. St. Elijah, pray for us.
(SOURCE: “Transforming Union With God” Retreat, 2013)
Copyright Fr. Robert Barcelos, OCD, 2016. All Rights Reserved.