We live in a busy world, a world that even glorifies busyness. There’s hardly a moment that goes by in which we aren’t overcome with noise and stimulation of some sort. Cell phones, TV, radio, movies, billboards, social media, video games, email, busy work schedules, busy social lives, busy family lives, and busy everything in between. Noise has bombarded our lives to the extent that we can’t even sit in the church pew to prepare for Mass in silence because people are always chatting.
We are overcome by noise in nearly every facet of our lives, yet our souls are starving for silence. We crave the encounter with Christ that silence affords us. If our hearts yearn for the silence, then why is it something we avoid? I believe the answer to that question is twofold. We most certainly avoid it because of our busyness, but I think we also avoid it because we are afraid. In fact, I once overheard a friend say she has to have noise in the background at all times – be it music or TV – because she can’t stand her own thoughts when it’s quiet. She admittedly is afraid of the silence. I think most of us have gotten pretty good at keeping the silence at bay. Indeed, we have become a society of people rarely seeking it, to the point we’ve become afraid of it, or rather, afraid of what our interior tells us in the silence.
A non-Catholic friend of mine was traveling in Minnesota a few years ago and wandered into the Cathedral of St. Paul out of curiosity. I happened to text her while she was there, unbeknownst to me. Her response was brief, but poignant:
I’m sitting in St. Paul Cathedral right now…
Quiet sure makes you face your inside.
It’s been years since she sent me that text; still her words linger in my mind. It’s so true. That is exactly why God calls us into the silence – to face our insides… with Him. We encounter our maker in the silence of our hearts, and in turn must face our own reality.
It’s not that God can’t or doesn’t speak to us in other moments, but we are most attuned to hear Him in the silence of our own hearts. We need space to listen to God and really flesh out what our inner stirrings tell us.
The New Testament is laced with Scripture depicting that even Jesus himself sought the silence. Time and again He went to the desert to pray:
When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. [Matthew 14:13]
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. [Mark 1:35]
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. [Matthew 6:6]
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. [Matthew 14:23]
…But He would withdraw to deserted places to pray. [Luke 5:16]
Yes, we are called into the silence; it is where we see our situation and ourselves more clearly, it is where we face our own insides, but most importantly it is where we encounter God.
Seek the silence.