What Comes First? Finding God or Being Found by God?
A line from the Carmelite and poet, Jessica Powers, came to me as I read today’s readings, “We are of Love not hunters but the prey.” That does turn things around. A wolf or bear may be our prey the very day they are out hunting.
Elijah was the most powerful of prophets. Indestructible. One day he found himself the prey of Queen Jezebel and her soldiers. A new feeling for Elijah and one he did like: fear. He was ready to give up; he laid down to die. God sends him to the cave in the mountain, there he must have expected God’s power to come to help him. In the thunder, lightning and earthquake, nothing. The the gentle breeze makes God present. God asks, “Why are you here”, (implied, “It’s a work day”). Go Elijah, you have three anointings to do. Jezebel won’t catch Elijah, he was caught by God long ago. Elijah does learn again the surprise that God is the Hunter and he is the prey, and God will protect what he has already tamed (somewhat).
….And Peter, such a big jump from fishing all day to dealing with Jesus. One minute, fear of a ghost, then Jesus, of all things, walking on the water. Peter’s request fits the evening, and ‘fear’ fits his sinking. How quickly we sink stepping off a boat or the side of a swimming pool at the deep end. Quickly we are under water. Matthew shows us Jesus doing what God does in the Old Testament, only God walks the seas and calms the storms. We see in this event Peter’s willingness to go first and lead his friends. What a different gospel if Peter wasn’t afraid. Would the other eleven have followed him jumping the waves and running around the boat. Maybe the warning at the end of John’s gospel, that Peter would one day be lead where he did not want to go, was meant to give him courage when he would know the fear of being taken against his will? Poor Peter, he is at his best and having such a good time enjoying dinner with Cornelius and his pagan family. The Spirit is visibly at work, how can he not walk lightly over those uncharted seas of ecumenism? But of all people, Paul, would cage him for saying one thing and doing the other.
Elijah and Peter were hunters. They followed the scent of God and thought they knew what to do when they saw their prey. But when dealing with Love, Love is the hunter and we are the prey. And each time we are caught does God tame us a little bit more before releasing us again?
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.