THE GENTLE BREEZE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – THE SOURCE OF TRUE HAPPINESS
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:9,11-16
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 26(27):7-9,13-14
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:27-32
Some days back, we reflected on encountering true happiness on the foundation of the law of God. Here, we readily resort to the Psalmist’s expression: “They are happy those whose lives are blameless, who follow God’s law. Happy are those who follow his commands, who obey him with all their heart.” (Ps. 119:1-2). Today’s message reflects ‘the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit’ as the source of true happiness and consolation in the difficulties and challenges of our mission and apostolates (on one hand), and in self-detachment or what is commonly called “circumcision of the heart” in living out our vocation to chastity as baptized Christians (on the other hand).
Taking the first reading as our point of departure, we see in Prophet Elijah, one who was zealous for the truth, and ‘fought’ with all his might to hold and defend this truth, the truth of the existence of the One true God – Yahweh, as against the false gods of his time. We are told that this led to an open challenge between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, with the task of calling down fire to consume their sacrifices, in proving the reality of Yahweh or Baal. In the end, the God of Elijah proved Himself supreme and powerful, while Baal was brought to shame. Consequently, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal slaughtered. When he was about to rejoice in his success for having won King Ahab over, he got a life-threatening message from Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, and he began to flee. It was in this activity that he encountered God who showed him what true happiness consists of. In this encounter, as illustrated in today’s first reading, Elijah learned that God is not revealed in the impetuous and violent wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the “sound of a gentle breeze.” This “soft” revelation contrasts with Elijah’s previous interventions. God wanted to comfort his prophet, who seemingly fought in vain, and is now discouraged at the limit of his strength, and no longer seems to understand the ways of God. In verse 10 and 14 of today’s first reading, we hear him say: ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of Hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’ Here, God gives no explanations but replaces him in his mission: ‘Go back by the same way to the wilderness of Damascus. You are to go and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel Meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’ (cf. vv. 15-16). In that encounter, God’s mysterious presence through his ‘gentle breeze’ restored strength and peace to Elijah’s heart.
At various points in time, we have been faced with the experience and lesson of Elijah in our various apostolates and missions. Perhaps, after an intense and exhausting apostolic activity done zealously for the love of God, unfortunately, the expected fruits are not seen; or after an excellent and tedious duty done in favour of the confreres and for the good of the community, all we get in return are misunderstandings, slander, ill-treatment and persecution. Nevertheless, in these challenges (as with that of Elijah) the Holy Spirit is present in our midst through “the sound of a gentle breeze,” speaking to our hearts, consoling and reconfirming us in the mission and apostolate, and granting us true happiness.
This true happiness continues to reflect itself in our spiritual struggles, especially one in which we depend totally on God’s grace in our efforts to make sacrifices and detachments. On this ground, today’s gospel reading tells us that we cannot expect true spiritual joy and happiness while seeking to always satisfy our natural tendencies in seeking the pleasures of life. Jesus’ words do not give us a chance to escape from our selfishness. The price of happiness is to amputate, detach from, or eliminate that which is an occasion for sin in us. God does not want us to be physically disabled, but demands the “circumcision of the heart” (Jer 4:4) in living out our call to chastity; that is, the breakdown of the ‘sclerosis of the heart’ – ‘it was because of the hardness of your hearts’ (Mt. 19:8), which undoes the sacred bond of love.
Dear friends in Christ, only the gentle but transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts can configure us to Christ and realize the true happiness he offers amid the challenges and difficulties we face in our various apostolates and missions. Also, only the gentle but transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts can grant us true happiness in responding the demands of chastity, an important aspect of our vocation as baptized Christians (cf. CCC #2348), in bearing witness to Christ in our world.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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