When a young eager priest wanted to meet St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata at all costs, even flying to India and showed up at the motherhouse, insisting an audience with her; after much persistence, she agreed to meet with him. After a short cordial exchange, she asked him, how much time he spends to pray each day! He told her he celebrate Mass, pray the Breviary, and the Rosary, to which she answered: “That is not enough my son! That is not enough, because love cannot be reduced to the indispensable minimum; love demands the maximum!” That statement humbled him. That priest was Angelo Comastri, who later became the cardinal archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The saint of the slum told him, “Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with His love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of His charity to my heart?” She ended the conversation by reminding the young priest, “Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”
I think it is important for us to remember that without God, we are nothing, and that has to be understood through a life of prayer. In such a noisy and self-centered world, we have become too busy to live our lives, chasing our dreams, constantly catching up on our busy schedule, or trying hard to be somebody that we have lost focus on the value and necessity of silence and prayer.
Our postmodern world likes to praise, exalt, and give focus to those who are vocal, think highly of themselves, attention seeking, and noisy. Yet, these types of people often spend their whole entire lives living with their lips, spilling out floods of words that carry only the increasingly meager fruits of their insecurities and fragile ego. We have, sadly, allowed ourselves to buy into this lifestyle, too, because we no longer have the time or the inclination to recollect ourselves, to think and to live profoundly in who we are as God’s children. We have ended up enabling one another through pressures, agitations, and popular opinions, thinking that life without “more” and “new” things are not worth living. Yet, what we ended up being superficial and vain, interfering and muffling the invitations of God at every turn. We have become dangerous to ourselves because we have built our lives on lies, pressures, vanities, and false approvals without knowing who we are deep from within!
Hence, our postmodern world is capable of all sorts of noise, wars, many false statements and fake news — doing a good job of making things act, look, feel, taste, and sound good — yet all chaotic because we have excluded God from our lives, from our struggles and battles, and especially from our egocentric ambition to transform this world for our own personal and selfish benefits alone. We have become so dependent on the noisy and empty approval of others that we are scared, resentful, and many times, avoid prayers and silent moments with God. As a matter of fact, this noisy life is choking the divine life out of us, because we have chosen to accustom ourselves with permanent background noise. This life sickens us, but we have become so dependent on it because it helps to distract us from what hurt the most.
Think about it… Without our usual noise, we become anxious, depressed, feverish, and lost. This meaningless and empty noise gives us false security, like a drug which we have become dependent to suppress, ignore, and deter us from our very own selves. Without a doubt, this noisiness is just simply a false appearance, a denial of our very need to face, understand, and know ourselves. We have seen people — perhaps ourselves, too — who become depressed and suicidal when they have to face their brokenness because they cannot face their interior emptiness that has been filled with meaningless noise, egocentric deceptions, and dangerous lies that tell us that we are someone that we are not. The awakening is brutal because we have been busying ourselves trying to be someone else but do not know who we are!
St. John the Baptist spent much time in silence in the desert. He was connected with God, lived as He was called to be. He zealously preached repentance and conversion of heart because he knew his mission given by the Almighty to prepare the way of Christ. Even though he did not know at first who Jesus was, perhaps from a long time of separation as they lived their individual lives, he was attentive and saw the Spirit descended upon the Chosen One, and that was why he said, “Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.”
In many ways, each and every one of us are called to be like St. John the Baptist, to prepare the way of the Lord, but most important of all, be attentive to His presence when he comes to us. Furthermore, we have a greater mission because we are disciples of Christ! He had done the mission given to him to prepare the way, but we still have the mission to be apostles — the ones who are “to be sent out” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — to preach the Good News to the whole world.
Perhaps, facing such challenges, we can only say, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do you will.” (Psalm 40:8-9) This invites us to be humble to stand silently and honestly before God to tell Him that we need Him, not having Him do things our ways, but to surrender to Him. We have to stop asking for what we want and ask Him to perfect us in love, to love Him more and more, to allow Him to model and form us as clay in His hands, and to bring to fulfillment what He has begun in us. Without our docile surrendering to Him we will remain as hardened clay that cannot be formed. The easiest — but hardest — thing is that we have to let go, little by little, of our miserable sentiments and self-pities as to become more capable of having the same sentiments as those of Jesus. It is necessary to die to ourselves in order to become like the Son of God with simple, childlike, and trusting faith, hope, and love.
Even though we are living in the “usual” Ordinary Time of the Church’s liturgical calendar, there is nothing ordinary about it! As we live this Ordinary Time, let us not forget our essential, foundational, and crucial mission to preach the Good News, to bring to awareness the extraordinary grace of God at work in our lives, the world at large, and those who are around us — especially those who are seeking Him — for He is present in each and every moment of our very ordinary, daily interactions.