Written by Michael Fones
Sunday, 14 January 2007 14:08
SOLITUDE AND SILENCE
We are affected by the people around us.
St. Peter swore he would die for Jesus – it was a very honorable thing to say in the midst of the other disciples.
But we know that when the time came, he denied Jesus because of the hostile people around him.
In both cases, what he said and did was profoundly affected by the crowd around him.
We're no different.
We find ourselves gossiping with those who gossip, talking about our possessions with those who focus on material things, drinking or smoking around those who do the same. How many self-destructive or sinful things do we do because we tell ourselves, "everyone does this"? Prayer, Bible reading and church attendance alone may not be enough to focus our lives on Jesus and transform us into His image.
If so, you'd think the world would look a bit different. At least I think I'd look a bit different.
Perhaps the grace offered in those activities don't have the full effect in us that it might because we are so fragmented, exhausted and confused. In fact, our prayer, Bible reading and Mass can degenerate into lifeless rituals. Lengthy solitude, silence and rest, however, can allow them to have the power for good in our life that God intends. This is a real challenge for those who live in a society that values productivity. How many of us even truly observe the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. That commandment is not just about attending Mass, it's about rest, reflection, silence and prayer!
Every year I am required by my Order to make a retreat.
Every year it is a challenge to make the time to do this – and I'm a priest!
But even an annual retreat is not enough silence and solitude. We have to make time to incorporate these two traditional spiritual practices into our lives. I know it's a challenge for people with children; I know you're very busy – but our relationship with God here - and in eternity – is at stake, folks!
Real silence and solitude with the Lord is essential to keep our other spiritual practices effective. You probably know what it's like to try to talk to someone who's watching TV or playing a video game. At some point you give up because the competition seems to be winning. God, too, doesn't seem to compete for our attention. If we won't withdraw from the things that obsess and exhaust us, and retreat into silence and solitude, God will leave us to our own devices.
Spiritual disciplines take discipline!
A discipline is an activity within our power – something we can do – that brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort. Whether we're learning a language or weightlifting, discipline is what allows us to respond more fully to God's grace and consciously participate in the shaping of the person we're becoming. Initially, our silence will be disrupted by thoughts of the laundry that needs to be done, or the work project that remains unfinished, or the TV show we never miss, or the plans we've made for the weekend, or the Patriots' chances against the Chargers. That just proves our compulsion, obsession and lack of real freedom.
Yet God invites us to "be still and know that I am God." – and that, by extension, we are NOT God!
And that's a remedy for a whole host of delusions we have!