Sunday, August 07, 2011

God’s Great Spiritual Remedy For All The Noise In Our Lives

(Nineteenth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on August 7, 2011 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a; Matthew 14: 22-33.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Nineteenth Sunday 2011]

“Leave me alone!”

“Give me some space!”

“Give me some time to gather my thoughts.”

“I want some peace and quiet for a change!”

“I need to get away from the rat race!”

All those common expressions are ways of affirming the very same truth: Quiet is good!

Or to use another well-known adage, Silence is golden.

And these days, very few of us have enough of it—including yours truly.

We live, unfortunately, in what has to be the noisiest era of human history—most especially because of all the technological gizmos that we have at our disposal, many of which were sold to us with the idea that they would make our lives simpler and easier.

And, to some extent, I suppose they have.  But they’ve also caused us to be bombarded by noise—lots of noise—almost incessant noise—all day long.

We even have what I would call “silent noise” to contend with.  (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t.)  Silent noise includes activities like text-messaging and tweeting and emailing—you know, all those things we do when we’re not talking on the phone, listening to the iPod or the radio, playing a video game, or watching television or a movie!

Is it any wonder that so many people in our modern world can’t deal with silence?  The lack of noise positively freaks them out!  Is it any wonder that so many of our young people can’t focus their attention on one thing for more than 2 minutes?  Psychologists say it’s ADD or ADHD, but at times I think it’s because these young people “OD”!  They OD—they “overdose” so to speak—on the non-stop noise in their lives!

I mention this today because this noise saturation that we all have to deal with directly affects our relationship with God.  That’s because our most profound encounters with the Lord usually happen in the quiet silence of our hearts.  Based on this morning’s first reading you might choose to call this “the Elijah-rule of the spiritual life.”  There, as we heard a few moments ago, Elijah the prophet encounters God on Mt. Horeb.  But notice that this encounter does NOT happen in the noise!  It doesn’t happen in the howling wind and crashing rocks; it doesn’t happen in the earthquake or in the noisy havoc caused by the fire.  Elijah meets the Lord in the “tiny whispering sound”; that is to say, in an experience of almost total silence.

Today’s gospel, in its own way, makes the very same point.  Yes, the apostles meet Jesus on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a very noisy storm, but their deepest encounter with the Lord happens afterward in the silence of their hearts, as they allow the experience they just had to sink in and strengthen their faith.  The text reads, “After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  [In other words, it got very quiet.]  Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”

So, I ask you, how often do you go before the Lord in silence?  Do you ever go to the Lord in that way?  Do you make an effort, for example, to be here early for Mass each week so that you can spend a few moments in quiet prayer, preparing to meet your Lord in word and in sacrament?

And how about Eucharistic Adoration?  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament provides us Catholics with the perfect opportunity to encounter our Lord in silence.  And that’s true even if the Eucharist is in the tabernacle and not exposed in the monstrance on the altar.  Now if you’re like me you do way too much talking and not enough listening during Adoration (and that affects the quality of the experience, for sure)—but at least during Adoration the atmosphere is right for us to have a profound encounter with our God.

I sat down the other day and made a little list of some of the great benefits that can come to us from spending time each week in quiet prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  Here they are:

1.      First of all, Adoration provides us with an opportunity to hear God speak to us through a word of Scripture that we might happen to read, or even in the silence of our heart.

2.      Adoration provides us with an opportunity to take our important decisions to the Lord, and to receive guidance and insight from him on those decisions.

3.      Adoration opens us up to special blessings from the Lord.

4.      Adoration gives us an opportunity to evaluate our own lives soberly and accurately in the light of God’s revealed truth (that is to say, it gives us an opportunity to examine our consciences—which we all need to from time to time).

5.      Adoration gives us an opportunity to “get away”.   (And it’s a lot cheaper than a ticket on Southwest Airlines!)

6.      Adoration gives us the chance to reprioritize and to be revitalized.

7.      And, finally, adoration gives us the opportunity to—in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews—“cast all our cares on the Lord” who cares for us!

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of possible benefits.  Some of you could add others, I’m sure, based on your own personal experience of praying to the Lord in this way.

Let me close this morning by giving the last word on the subject to some holy men and women of Church history.  Here’s what they said about Adoration:

First, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She wrote, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.”

St. Peter of Alcantara said, "Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has His hands full of graces, and He is ready to bestow them on anyone who asks for them."

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (who made a Eucharistic Holy Hour every single day of his priestly life) said, "Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are preceded by a personal encounter with Him. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar. The Holy Hour becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world,"

And again, Mother Teresa: "When the Sisters are exhausted, up to their eyes in work; when all seems to go awry, they spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This practice has never failed to bear fruit: they experience peace and strength."

And, finally, my own insight (which is far less profound than these others but equally true, I believe): “Eucharistic Adoration can be for us a remedy—God’s remedy—God’s great spiritual remedy—given to us so that we don’t overdose on all the noise in our lives.”