Fr. Kevin’s Column 2/21/21

Dear friends of God,

Today we delve into our Lenten walk together in a big way with the First Sunday of Lent. We hear in Mark’s Gospel that the “…Spirit drove Jesus into the desert…” The desert is a place of silence. The desert was a special place for the people of Jesus’ time. It was a reminder of their Exodus. It was a holy habitat. For some, the desert is a frightening locale. For me, when I think of the desert, I think of my time in Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer. I have spent some time there over the last number of Februarys on retreat taking time for intensive meditation. These opportunities have connected me deeply to our God who dwells within and all around us. I am looking forward to these times again when the pandemic is over and we can return to a more normal moment in our lives. When I make time for dedicated days of meditation, I feel a wholeness that I can often forget in the frenetic busyness of life that we all live in one way or another. For me, silence is the way to foster wholeness or as Father Peter Slattery, O.Carm. put it: “Silence is the way to foster holiness.” This need for silence that is so important to me is something that has developed over my adulthood. When I was younger, I had a hard time with silence. I even feared it. Along the way, when I began to meditate I learned that God could best be experienced in the silence of our lives: that silence and stillness were God’s platform for communication. In other words, “silence is God’s language.” Trappist Father Thomas Keating put it this way in his book Rising Tide of Silence:

We’re coming to understand this incredible intelligence. Silence is God’s language. If you just be silent you pick up by osmosis God’s attitude We’re dealing with an infinite intelligence that is totally penetrated by a love that is probably inconceivable to us. And it’s coming to understand the stages of this love that are available to human beings that is the work of contemplation. It’s not just a method of prayer. In fact, it goes beyond all methods. It’s a relationship hence, it has a spontaneity that begins perhaps first in prayer for most people, then begins to weave its way into all kinds of activity that seem most trivial. One begins to see that God is in everything, and perceive the goodness of everything for that very reason. And as this forms, you feel a deeper silence that might be called spaciousness. There’s nothing, except a certain vibrancy and aliveness You’re awake!! But awake to what, you don’t know. But you’re awake to something that is absolutely marvelous and totally generous. And manifests itself with increasing tenderness and sweetness and intimacy. So one feels embraced by God interiorly or kissed or held. The divine grace has us looking at life from the perspective of divine wisdom. The only condition is to give consent. To say “Yes”.

In Lent, the Church has given us 40 days of preparation for the Resurrection of Easter. Our traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help us to change our hearts and our minds about God’s presence and action in our lives. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are spiritual means that can draw us closer to our God and our neighbor and show us the way of living Christ’s Resurrection (and ours as well) that we will celebrate at Easter. These 40 days of Lenten life can also be a good opportunity to take more time for silence in our lives. Maybe we can fast from the noises in our lives such as radio and television, social media and even gossip (which is the great sin of many of us Christians). Cassidy Hall is a young woman who has a podcast Encountering Silence with some friends of silence. I appreciate the leveling field that she suggests that silence offers: “Silence includes everyone, silence levels the ground and flattens our egos, to recall that we’re all human and we all belong to one another.”

As we stroll along our silent desert let us pray for one another!

 

Much love,
Fr. Kevin