Speak in the Light

June 25, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

Today’s Gospel is a timely word from Christ to us. For the faithful and devoted, even if one is not a Christian activist per se, just the mention of their Christianity is enough to garner hostility and calumny. Our current times demand that Christians surrender to the loud voices of self-will and desire. These are the voices that say, “my desire is sacred, what I want is what is best for me, I know best, my desires are unquestioningly good, etc.” These voices are certainly heard in the public sphere spoken from the rooftops and in plain view. However, what is undeniably the case is that all people, including Christians, suffer from hearing these voices interiorly. It is the voice of our concupiscence (1).

This loud and noisy injury to our soul is the prevailing and sovereign voice of our times. Ideologies, political strategies, business models, advertising, and entertainment are built to cater to our concupiscence. “Sex sells,” “If it’s dead, shoot it (i.e. with a camera)”, “do what feels right,” are some of the quips summing up the kind of appeal for which many institutions strive. For example, the gamification and quantification of our social media is a psychological device engineered by app developing companies to try and get people to “stick” to their app and use it more frequently. Facebook is a case in point, given things like numbers of responses, likes, and notifications which are used as a way of simultaneously rewarding and challenging our brains to “seek more.” I’ll be the first to admit that it is difficult to resist dropping what I may be doing at any given moment to respond to the little dings or vibrations of my smartphone. The little noises that fill our day add up. Each little psychological trick and ploy, is another distracting impulse, taking us away from where God’s voice is truly found–silence.

Christians striving for perfection are already well aware of the dangers of addiction to our numerous screens and things to be found on them. How many of your friends gave up Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, games or even the internet (for the hardcore) for Lent? It is because there is a sense for a good thing there. It is good to moderate and maintain control of where our eyes go and what our minds think. Even if your feeds are filled with religious exhortations and articles about spiritual life, there is still a noise that doesn’t necessarily lead to God’s voice. After all, there will always be the comments section. The times that we pursue the silence that comes from the absence of such noise, we are pursuing what is typically called exterior silence. However, the silence in which we may hear God’s voice, though necessitating this exterior silence, will not find it sufficient. God’s voice is so quiet and gentle that we also need interior silence.

Interior silence is the foundational spiritual state in which one may clearly “hear God’s voice.” Hearing God’s voice is, of course, a metaphorical phrase because, with the exception of the mystics of God’s choosing, we will not audibly hear God with our ears or see him with our literal eyes. In a more literal and direct way of speaking about it, hearing God’s voice is to allow God to effect changes in our soul–our thoughts, desires, emotions, habits, and choices. Much in the same way that watching a movie may affect us mediated by its images, words, and sounds, God can make such movements in us. However, God will take a more direct approach. God’s word is not mediated by intense scenes of violence, or moving scores of music. Rather, it is the silence itself, the “silence of heaven” that God wishes to communicate (cf. Revelation 8:1).

In today’s readings, the prophet Jeremiah writes, “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” In the spiritual life, are these not the voices of the anxieties and the burdens that we carry often unnecessarily. These “whisperings of many” tend to be the lasting psychological effects of the numerous jerks who evoked our road rage, or the coworker(s) who continually rub us the wrong way,  or the constant call to our bills and loan payments, or the ongoing media coverage of bipartisan political violence. These are the same voices that sneak in the voice contrary to God’s silence. The one that says, “I have no time to sit still and sit in silence, there is too much to do.” To our baser nature, this seems rational. It is very human and reasonable to think that doing nothing will result in nothing. And that is what God’s silence often seems to be–nothing.

It is the person of faith who can see that the only real chance of solving all of these seeming problems is the power of the omnipotent. The truly powerful in this world are those who can influence the causes that shape the world. What is more powerful than influencing the first, primary cause, God (Cf. The Soul of the Apostolate)? That is what our faith tells us we do in our prayer. The mystery of prayer though, is that in God hearing us, we hear God; in influencing God, God changes us. The prayers of Mother Theresa to bring God’s riches and love to the poor was answered in God’s direction for her own life. What God spoke to her in her daily prayer in the darkness of the blessed sacrament, she proclaimed on the rooftops of her actions.

This all presumes then that we have to hear what God says to us, what God is whispering to us. This can only be done by working toward an interior silence where in moments of exterior silence we also quiet the anxieties that daily antagonize our conscience and keep us awake at night. This is the true silence. When we can sit in God’s presence unbothered by our earthly cares, and longingly desire what we finally receive in the moment which is God, pure and simple.

What is it that God will finally say to us in this interior silence–what will God “say” in the darkness, or “whispers” in the quiet of our prayer? The message will take on numerous forms but in the final analysis, they all mean the same thing. Today, Jesus says, “Fear no one.” Is this not the same as, “I am with you”, “you are mine”–“I love you.”

  1. CCC 2515 “Etymologically, “concupiscence” can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the “flesh” against the “spirit.” Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.”

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