And all spoke well of Him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to Me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.’” And He said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them He went away. Luke 4: 22-30 (Gospel from Feast of Prophet Elias
One of my favorite Scripture passages comes from I Kings 19:11-13. In this passage, Elijah goes to Mount Horeb to encounter God, the way that Moses did. He wasn’t going to see the face of God. Moses didn’t either. But he was going to experience the might of God. The verses read as follows:
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
It is ironic that Elijah encountered the Almighty God not in loudness or magnificence but in stillness. Many church communities have set out to build lavish sanctuaries, reasoning that God will be encountered the best in magnificence. And while it is true that God is magnificent and that magnificent church sanctuaries are moving and can lead to “God moments,” the most significant moments we spend with God are usually in stillness. I have experience God alone in nature. I have experience Him in prayer. I experience Him when I go to confession, as well as when I hear confession. I generally feel His presence more when “two or three are gathered in My (His) name” (Matthew 18:20) than when two hundred are gathered.
One of the challenges, of course, to encountering God, is that we have to have intentional silence in our lives. We have to intentionally choose to be still, in order to hear God’s voice which comes in stillness. Because we are on sensory overload all the time, stimulated especially by our phones, we are losing the ability or interest in sitting quietly and with stillness and consequently we are losing the small, still voice of God.
In the very busy world, we all need the small, still voice of God, and we all need the small, still voice of a friend, offering encouragement and insight, rather than just egging on, and bringing more “noise”.
The Gospel passage today brings with it another irony, that “no prophet is acceptable in his own country,” or as is said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, “a prophet is not without honor except in his own country.” (Matthew 4:23) This is sadly very true. I know from personal experience, when a visiting priest comes, he can give the same sermon I would give and people will like hearing it better because he is a visitor, a novelty, someone new. I read in a book called “Getting Together and Staying Together,” that oftentimes, the biggest critics in our lives are our spouses. A spouse is much more likely to lay into their spouse than lay into a good friend. Because we know that our friends choose to be friends. We believe that our spouses have signed up for life. Sadly, in today’s world, there are a lot of spouses who don’t believe in marriage for life, hence the high divorce rate.
The people in Jesus’ home area were so angry with Him that not only they wanted Him to leave, but they tried to kill Him.
The lessons from today’s reflection are three—be kind to everyone, but especially to the people who are closest to you, who often bear the brunt of your anger and negativity. Also, listen for the small, still voice of God in prayer. You won’t encounter that voice in a busy store, or when you are playing loud music. Make intentional time to be silent.
There is a third lesson, which is that in the midst of chaos, peer pressure and stress, we all need to hear the voice of friends who are looking out for us and encouraging us. I am thankful in my life that I have a few good friends who are that small but consistent voice of encouragement, who help me to negotiate the landmines my life. We all need people like this. And we are all capable of being consistent voices of stillness and calmness for other people as well.
O believers, let us sing hymns in honor of Elias and Elisha, the pinnacles of the prophets and the luminaries of the world. And let us joyfully cry out to Christ, “O compassionate Lord, at the entreaties of Your Prophets, grant to Your people the forgiveness of sins and the great mercy.” (Doxastikon of the Feast of St. Elias, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be kind to one another. Listen for the small still voice of God. Listen to the small and still voice of a good friend. Learn how to be a still small voice in the lives of your friends. Because we all need a voice of encouragement and that’s not found in loud and boisterous circles most often, but in consistency, peace humility and love.