One of my favorite things to do is go to the church during the week. I find that it’s the only place where there is absolute silence (as long as nothing else is going on there at the time). Silence is something that I often long for; I need it!
Without experiencing moments of silence each day, I can’t find peace (and even finding peace on those days can still be a challenge). In our culture, silence is practically nonexistent. It’s almost seen as something undesirable—or even worse, not necessary or good. (I don’t think I have to go into much depth here. I’m sure you have an idea of what I’m talking about.)
Last Sunday, I arrived at the church about forty minutes before Mass was to begin in hopes of spending some much needed quiet time with Jesus. My attempt was in vain because the choir was practicing. Then as people began arriving, the noise in the church increased. One might assume that the church would be a place for silence, but I’ve found this to be true only during the week, not on Sunday.
It seemed like everywhere I found myself on Sunday was noisy. I couldn’t find a quiet space; it was frustrating! Later that evening, my mom said to me, “Maybe today isn’t meant to be a quiet day.” I didn’t understand what she was saying. Sunday is meant to be a day of rest, so shouldn’t it be quiet? My mom had a point. I learned something valuable by not having that “quiet day.”
Hearing the Gospel and my experience on Sunday presented me with a clear message: in order to hear God’s voice, we must first find time and space for silence.
I’ll give a short description of the Gospel (the event known as the Transfiguration). Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him to pray on a high mountain, where He often goes to pray and be alone. Some events transpire—the climax being that a cloud overshadows them and God the Father speaks. He says,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
It may seem straightforward and obvious enough for Christians who read or hear this verse: we’re called to listen to Jesus. However, it got me thinking (as usual).
How can we listen to Jesus if we can’t even hear His voice? Or worse, what if we can’t even hear that we’re being called to do this in the first place? In other words, if there is always noise around us, how can we hear anything other than the noise?
If someone is talking to me, but I’m on my phone, watching TV or engaged in another activity and not still and quiet, how could I possibly hear what they’re saying to me? I might only be able to hear if they decide to yell or remove whatever is distracting me. Also, if I’m always talking and not listening, how could I possibly hear anything other than my own voice?
God does not “compete” with the distractions and noises of the world. He does not “yell” at us or use force to make us listen to Him. He comes to us most often in the silence, when we are quiet, still and open.
It’s important to note that God does use more dramatic ways to speak to us sometimes—just look at St. Paul’s conversion story. In my personal experience, His approach is usually gentle and subtle in the every day, ordinary moments of life.
So why does the Church give us this passage during Lent?
I feel part of the reason is because of what we’re called to do during this holy season. We’re called to let go of anything that is a distraction and interferes with our ability to hear God’s voice. We’re called to begin or continue to develop a quiet interior life so that when God speaks to us, which He does all the time, we can hear Him.
Someone recently told me that in Catholic icons (representations of the images of holy figures in the form of symbolic paintings), the ears of the holy person are portrayed as large, while the lips are portrayed as small. This is an incredible lesson!
We’re expected to listen more than speak. In a culture where there are so many voices speaking to us and trying to get our attention, we must learn what God’s voice sounds like. We must learn to be sure, or as sure as possible, that we’re listening to Him and not an opposing voice.
If you don’t already do so, I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to be silent and still. Remove all noise and distractions and spend a few minutes alone. You may feel you don’t have time or it’s too challenging; but believe me, it’s worth the effort…
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” ~ God the Father