Biblical faith always makes room for "wrong turns." Sunday's three readings presume such events will certainly take place.

Though most homilists will comment on the line in the first reading (I Kings 19: 9, 11-13) that describes Yahweh speaking to Elijah in "a tiny, whispering sound," few will help their communities reflect on the verses immediately before and after.

Running for his life, the prophet starts at Mt. Carmel on Israel's northern border and comes as far south as you can go and still be in the Holy Land: Beersheba.

Why here?

Yahweh's angel finds him a day's journey south in the wilderness and twice provides him with a "hearth cake and a jug of water," strengthening him to walk "forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb (Sinai)." Then, after Elijah recognizes God's whispering voice, Yahweh asks an unexpected question: "Elijah, why are you here?"

Not happy about the prophet's presence in the Sinai, Yahweh sends him back north, beyond Mt. Carmel, "to the desert near Damascus." A quick look at a map of Israel and its surroundings shows that Elijah traveled hundreds of miles in the wrong direction - by foot!

Anyone can make a mistake and take a wrong turn. But the key to understanding the sacred author's theology revolves around the fact that Yahweh helped Elijah take that turn. Remember the angelic hearth cake and jug of water?

Paul reflects on a similar experience (Rom 9: 1-5). In accepting the risen Jesus in his life, the Apostle realizes he's going down a different road from mainstream Judaism. It's in this section of his letter that he speculates on why this split is happening.

Certain that his fellow Jews didn't develop their faith and religion on their own, Paul acknowledges that Yahweh has been guiding them through the centuries.

"They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises."

Even the Messiah comes from them. Yet they're going in a direction in which Yahweh no longer wants them to travel.

That disturbs Paul so deeply that he reaches a point where he'd almost prefer to be separated from Jesus than to be separated from his Jewish brothers and sisters. God has once again helped someone take a wrong turn.

Matthew narrates a similar story (Mt 14: 22-33). When the disciples see Jesus coming toward them, walking on the sea during the fourth watch of a stormy night, "they were terrified." Still, Peter is courageous enough to ask, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Jesus simply says, "Come!"

Eyes on Jesus

Peter quickly discovers he's stepped into uncharted territory. "When he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'"

Matthew tells us why Jesus would call Peter to step into such chaos, knowing he'd sink: "Jesus immediately stretched out His hand, caught him, and said to him, 'O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?'"

Peter sinks because he breaks his concentration on Jesus. His noticing the wind and waves more than Jesus provides Matthew with a terrific theological point. Christians can definitely go in the wrong direction only when they take their eyes off Jesus.

Even the I Kings author agrees that Yahweh will eventually get us to the right place as long as we continue to search for God's word in our life. Even more so, Paul, because of Jesus in his life, can't continue down the path his fellow Jews are traveling.

Being one with Jesus and knowing Jesus' word will always guarantee we'll end up where God wants us to be, even if God helps us take a roundabout way to get there.