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January 16, 1998     The Message
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January 16, 1998

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8 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana By FATHERJOHN W. CROSSIN, O.S.ES. Catholic News Service How does God come to us? God comes in the ordinary events and peo- ple of our lives. God comes to us in varied ways throughout our lives. Many of us marvel at the outstand- ing accomplishments of Mother Teresa in Calcutta and throughout the world. Her work for the poor was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet, we normally find God closer to home. We see God's love in: A friend's love for her aging father. A widow's generous service to the sick, and A parent's patient love for a bois- terous teen-ager. Why don't we always notice God's" clear presence? Perhaps because we are very busy. And we tend to fill our hec- tic lives with noise. No sooner do we enter a room than we must turn on the television, the radio or CD player. We must dial a friend or check our e-mail. Our daily habitual patterns of acting and thinking may block a full percep- tion of God's presence. Silence is essential to listen for God. Not long ago I experienced this lis- tening in the silence of a week-long retreat. But more often it is the silence of the day's available moments that enables us to hear. In our occasional quiet times, we can pay more attention to the deeper reali- ty of God's presence. For a few minutes while waiting in line, or before the next meeting, or just before sunset, we can "tune in" to God's call. God speaks to us in various ways. A saint's ministry or the quiet exam- ple of a friend may be God's way of sending a message to us. The inspired word of Scripture, the Bible, is another clear way God speaks to us. The totality of ScriptUre whether Jesus' parables, the prophets' exhortations or St. Paul's instructions n is God's word given to us. In personal meditation and in com- munal celebrations, we come to under- stand the biblical word and apply it to our lives. Eventually the teaching of Scripture forms our way of seeing the world. God speaks to us also through our Catholic tradition. This tradition, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is some- times neglected as an ongoing source of God's presence and direction. Just as we prayerfully reflect on the Bible, so too must we prayerfully con- sider our tradition. The Nicene Creed, recited each Sunday at Mass, presents many basic truths of our tradition in a concise form. The Catholic catechism is our latest detailed attempt to capture the Catholic tradition for our times. Both creed and catechism deserve our best consideration as God's living word to our community. The sacraments, rooted in Scripture and tradition, speak God's love to us in special ways. The Eucharist, in particu- lar, brings Christ to us. Recently, at the close of a Cursillo weekend, I felt Christ's presence in a hard-to-define, yet real way as we sang the opening hymn of Mass. It was as if God was reaching from eternity and speaking directly to me. While that moment passed, its memory is still vivid. I believe the barrier between heaven and earth is permeable, not solid. God reaches out and touches us at that "lit- tle bit of heaven" which we call the Eucharist. God speaks to us, usually in the ordi- nary but also the not-so-ordinary moments of our lives. We seek to listen and respond. Oblate Father Crossin is a visiting fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He is the author of "Friendship: The Key to Spiritual Growth." "Our daily habitual patterns of acting and thinking may ception of God's presence," explains Oblate Father John is essential to listen for God." m CNS By FATHER JOHN J. CASTELOT Catholic News Service Elijah had braved the wrath of the ruthless queen Jezebel. A devotee of the pagan god Baal, she was determined to make her religion Israel's state religion, and she cruelly cut down anyone who got in her way. Elijah dared to stand up for the God who had made a solemn covet with his people. The prophet had successful- ly contended with her official prophets and publicly humiliated them. This was the last straw. Enraged, Jezebel marked Elijah out for death. There was only one thing to do: flee! Actually, he fled not just to escape her, but to find the God whose cause he championed so heroically. It was not that he doubted God, but Elijah was per- plexed. Was this the thanks he got? Elijah fled to the desert where God first was manifested to this people. God led Elijah all the way back to Mt. Sinai (1 Kings 19:1-18). Elijah had heard of all the spectacular events that had accompanied God's self- revelation there and looked for the same reassuring phenomena: fire, hurricane- force gales, earthquakes. He was not dis- appointed. From the security of a cave he wit- nessed all of these overwhelming events, but in none of them did he find God. Finally there was a hush, a "tiny whis- pering sound." And in that silence he found the God he desperately sought! Everyone, consciously or uncon- sciously, is looking for God. Many, like Elijah, look for God in something spec- tacular, in visions, apparitions, secret messages. But this is not the usual way God is revealed. God prefers to speak to people in the "tiny whispering sound," but if they are intent on the flashy, the noisy, they may completely miss it. Paradoxically, God often is closest just when he seems farthest away. When death's darkness was engulfing Jesus, he emitted this blood-curdling cry: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Yet, Jesus was never so close tO his Father. Jesus" anguished prayer was from the opening of Psalm 22. But let's continue it to its triumphal conclusion: "For he has not spurned nor disdained the wretched man in his misery, nor did he turn his face away from him, but when he cried out, he heard him." Mary Magdalene frantically sought her crucified Lord and could not find even the comfort of being near his corpse, which had been transfigured, raised to a transcendent realm of being and action. When she finally found him, he did not overwhelm her with a daz- der word, her name: This is how the etly, tenderly, Father Castelot is author, teacher m