In this world where we are surrounded by noise, silence is sometimes essential for us to know God and ourselves in a deeper manner. Noise can be distracting. It can distract us from listening to what God wants of us to be. Most often than not, noise can lead us astray, thinking that what we are doing at that point in time is most important.
When I refer to noise, I do not just mean sounds that are noisy. When we busy ourselves with many tasks, we can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that we need to do. Prioritising then becomes not possible, and we become ineffective in doing what we need to do. In our busy state, we are inflated with a sense of self-importance. Our ego is stoked. Our focus then becomes centred to ourselves. Hence, people with an inflated sense of self-importance use the word ‘I’ frequently. To them, ‘I’ am at the centre of the universe, ‘I’ am important’, ‘I’ am indispensable, ‘I’ am the only one who can solve the problem.
But if we look at Jesus, retrospectively, he is an important character in the New Testament, and in playing a role in helping us to know God better now. Yet, Jesus in the Gospel is highly focused in knowing what he needs to accomplish. He has only one task, and he relies on his disciples to help him spread the Good News to the communities living in Israel and beyond.
Jesus spends most of his time with his disciples and the community around him. There are also rare and unexpected moments when he withdraws from his disciples and the people around him, and he goes to pray in solitude.
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16)
As seen in the verse above, Jesus deliberately makes the intention to ‘lonely places’ to pray alone. Contrary to what we may do when we are swamped with tasks that we think are important to complete, Jesus makes praying a priority. Why?
My guess would be it is only in solitude, Jesus is able to listen to God’s words. Jesus would then be able to discern God’s will for him. Jesus in spending time alone with God, is allowing God to come to him and undergo conversion. We frequently have a misplaced understanding of conversion. When we speak of conversion in present day, we often think of an immediate, or a single event of how one converts to Christianity. Evangelism should not be seen in only such light. As evangelicals (and one should always be), we should always be aware that we follow the teaching of the Gospel and this needs to be reflected in our actions.
Does Jesus need conversion? Yes. He is human after all, despite being Son of God. Do we, mere mortals, need conversion every day and every moment in our lives? Definitely. To Jesus, a silent moment with God, probably recharges him spiritually so that he is able to continue to do what God requires him to do — to spread love, heal and reconcile the divisiveness among people in the community he lives in.
To us, solitude with God means, shows our desire to acknowledge that we are spiritually poor, and we desire for God to touch us, to enlighten us. As what is seen in the Beatitudes, in spending time with God in silence, we are admitting our humility in front of God and we offer up to God our weaknesses and sins. We are stripped of our ego, our false self. We become vulnerable in front of God and we confess to Him that we need help to be better people. In times of solitude with God, we are finally one with God, our Creator as we allow His love and mercy to flow within us.
If we think of silence as being necessary for us to grow in faith, then yes, it’s all the more important for us to make a deliberate decision to go for mass. If we truly understood the importance of silence, we would also make a conscious decision to think of how we would want to spend time in church — before mass, during mass and after mass. We would also probably make a conscious decision to arrive early for mass. Attending regular mass is an acknowledgement of how busy we are in our daily lives and we need to incorporate some silent moments with God, if we are not going to do so at home.
Receiving the liturgy is important. What is more important is how we build and strengthen our relationship with God in those precious silent moments before the start of mass, before and after we receive the Eucharist, and even after mass. The last not being possible during the pandemic, but it is entirely possible to embrace these silent moments in the first two stages as stated above.
Do not underestimate how God can convert us even if it is only a mere few minutes of quietness. As the saying goes, it is not the length of time that matters in building an authentic relationship, but rather how we make use of the limited time that is more important in helping ourselves grow in God’s grace.