Saturday, August 12, 2023

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023 - "But the Lord Was Not in the Wind"


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – “But the Lord Was Not in the Wind”


About 20 years ago I was a brand new high school teacher and, although I knew I wanted to be a priest, and had told everyone, I was doubting.  I remember at one point hitting my bed and saying “Jesus I NEED to know that you are REAL!!!”

And immediately I saw a very similar image to last Sunday’s Gospel.  I was standing on the top of a mountain looking at Jesus far off in the distance of that same mountain top talking to two people who I could not see.  Then Jesus came closer to me, and there was a light that came from Jesus and passed right through my heart and I was immediately struck with complete and utter bliss.  After the vision ended, I was walking around my house singing Catholic hymns, and I certainly surprised my family, as that was NOT my normal behavior!

But then that night, as I laid down to sleep, I could feel the super-intense joy start to go.  The effects, though, continued to linger for about a week, and then they were gone.


I spent the next couple of years trying to recreate that spiritual experience, I would pound my bed with my fists and say the same words I had said before, but nothing ever happened.

And that caused me to go into a sort of spiritual depression for a couple of years.

So pretty early on at St. Meinrad, I bought a book written by St. John of the Cross, and he definitely helped me understand why trying to recreate a spiritual “high” (or to seek a spiritual “high” in the first place) can actually be damaging to our spiritual growth.


He said there are a couple of reasons we should not seek out spiritual highs:

1) St. John of the Cross says one of the reasons we should not ask for spiritual highs is that when they inevitably fade, we will try to recreate them.  Guilty!

2) Another reason he says we should not pray for spiritual mountain experiences is that that the Devil can also lead us astray by appearing to provide us with some of the stuff that we THINK constitutes a “spiritual high”.

3) Also, early on at Meinrad, I was going to Mass every day, and I remember walking into my spiritual director’s office and I started crying and I told him, through the tears, that “I am going to Mass every day, and I just don’t FEEL anything happening!”  But a few months later, when I began reading St. John of the Cross, he hit me right between the eyes with this quote: “In receiving the Eucharist, they spend all their time trying to get some feeling and satisfaction rather than humbling praising and reverencing God dwelling within them.  And they go about this in such a way that, if they do not procure any sensible feeling and satisfaction, they think they have accomplished nothing.”


A lot of us, in the Catholic Church and also non-Catholic Christians spend a lot of time and energy trying to make Mass (or their Protestant prayer service) an EMOTIONAL experience, but that is not what the Mass is meant to be.  99.999% of the time I do not FEEL anything at Mass other than just a quiet peace.

This all gets back to our first reading at Mass, one of my favorite in Old Testament.  Elijah is also in desperate straits as I was.  He told God I need to know that you are real, and then there is this litany fire, earthquakes rushing wind, but it says God is not in any of those things, but was in the still small whisper.


This Mass, and every Mass, brings a peace that is DEEPER than pyrotechnics and praise music…

At this Mass, and every Mass, as Saint Peter told Jesus on the top of Mount Tabor, it is good for us to be HERE at this Mass to experience the still, quiet presence of Jesus.

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