In Stillness and Silence

We live in dark times, in an age of global anxiety and deep despair. Everyone feels threatened and concerned about the future which looks more and more bleak for more and more people. Fear and uncertainty, along with a sense of isolation and emptiness, have skyrocketed. There are times in my work among the chronically poor of the world, I’m left with a feeling of hopelessness. I was in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and was nearly crushed by a staggering sense of hopelessness. Without an inner sense of depth and freedom we easily become oppressed by the darkness and despair, victims of our circumstances. With God, we can see and move beyond our limitations. God created us for growth, for an ever-expanding realization of the divinity within us. In God, there is true freedom. Outside of God, there is only bondage.

For me, seeing so much suffering in the massive slums of the world forced me to forget myself, my own limitations, and hear the silent voice of God calling me to respond, not only to the shameful injustice, but also to God’s infinite mercy and love. In seeing so many starving kids with bloated bellies and the overwhelming need of the poor, I became less concerned with my own subjective needs and harmful compulsions, and more aware of the self-emptying love of Christ which I needed to imitate to the best of my ability, puny as it is. But the noise of life sometimes distracted me and rendered me deaf to God and capable of only hearing my own confused and rambling voice.

The pandemic of consumerism and busyness deadens our capacity for contemplation and causes a deterioration of our interior lives. Without the stillness and silence of solitude, we easily slip back into the mediocrity of a comfortable Christianity which is no match for the gun-toting, hopeless nihilism of postmodern life where everything is reduced to a commodity for sale, where unbridled greed has caused a catastrophic global economic recession, where materialism without qualification and sex without love are affirmed and championed, where mainstream corporations distribute pornography without shame or reproach, where dialogue has given way to vitriolic hate speech, where alleged Christians threaten to burn Muslim scriptures, where conflicts are settled by violence, where barbarous acts of terrorism threatens all, where loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, where blind religious fundamentalism passes for true faith, where drug addiction and alcoholism are rampant, where thousands of kids die everyday from hunger, and where selfishness and individualism have created prisons of poverty and are destroying the earth. In stillness and silence we are able to catch a glimmer of the interconnectivity of all life, to see the sun as our brother and the moon as our sister, to see that all of humanity and all of creation as part of our family.

Even in solitude I’m powerless to create (or even merit) the desire of my heart, the desire to see the face of God. It is only by grace that God gives us eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand. And the lived reality of God’s grace and presence leads us, in our own fragility, to greater and greater heights of compassion for others.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” In solitude, we can bring all the stuff we have been shouldering for years and place them at the feet of Jesus. In a spirit of genuine friendship Jesus is invites us, sometimes through the unplanned circumstances of or lives, into a time and place of solitude so we can learn from him who is gentle and humble of heart and who sincerely wishes that our souls find rest and peace it so desperately needs. Jesus, who ate and drank with prostitutes and had the most disreputable of friends, accepts me just as I am, just where I am on my wandering journey through life during which I have often been troubled and sidetracked by the paradoxes and enigmas of Christianity. Though vested in divinity, Jesus took on human flash. Though possessing all power, Jesus entered into our weakness and became powerless for us. Jesus entered into our nothingness so we could be filled with everything, with eternity. He entered into our frailty and futility, our sin-filled humanity and blessed us with countless hidden graces to help leads us to our true home with God. But, for the most part, we look away, go our own way, just pretending to be a friend of Jesus.

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