Such haste, such noise. All around us, there is constant movement – all of us, dashing about and often with no clear sense of where we are trying to get to. Sometimes – perhaps even ‘often’ – we need to simply stop and come to rest for a little while.
For a Catholic, this is even more crucial when looking for things from a spiritual perspective. Saint Augustine tells us that our hearts are restless until they rest in God – this, then, is the immediate goal for us; to simply rest a while in the presence of God.
To do so is not always easy. It requires an awareness of our need to rest in God’s presence, first of all, followed by the decisiveness to actually try to achieve this.
And then there are questions about how we come to rest in the presence of God.
Many Saints over the centuries have each suggested a variety of practices designed to accomplish this – although in reality, it is not we who accomplish anything; rather, we allow ourselves to become a little more docile to the grace of God, which alone can achieve this. One such example is Saint Francs de Sales and his ‘Practice Of The Presence Of God’, a very beautiful and spiritual book which offers much good for souls.
For the moment, perhaps it is sufficient for us to realise our need of simply being in the presence of God, wrapped in stillness and silence for as little as a moment or two, or as long as our daily lives permit us to be so. We all need to begin somewhere.
In His presence, it is enough for us just to be.
It is enough that we are simply still and quiet, that we are open to the Lord and receptive to whatever grace He deigns to grant us in that moment, even if it is nothing at all. Even then, we have been with Him, putting all else to the side just for those few moments.
This ‘being with’ the Lord is stillness and silence enables us to re-order our priorities where we have need to do so; love of God first, love of neighbour closely following it. In other words, it allows us first to be loved by the Lord, and then to take something of that love with us into the world, reflecting it out to others. And don’t imagine this is an inconsequential thing – that ‘being loved so that we might love’ is the most powerful force; it is the force of the very Gospel itself, and of every Saint who ever followed that Gospel.
Speaking this morning, Pope Francis said something which obliquely touches on this –
“Only a heart that is not taken over by hastiness is capable of being moved, that is, of not allowing itself to be caught up in itself and by things to do, and is aware of others, of their wounds, their needs. Compassion is born from contemplation.”
It is when we consciously slow down and place ourselves in the presence of the Lord that He desires not only to love us, but to love through and with us.
The Crucifix is a good visual prompt in this respect – there, we see the hands of the Lord are nailed to the Cross; He cannot move His own hands and so He needs our hands to do His work. And what is His work? It is to love. It is to be merciful. It is to be compassionate in deed and in word and in prayer, always and without exception.
The trouble is, life can become so frantic that we forget this simple message. And it is precisely at such moments that we need to stop and to place ourselves in the presence of God.
Image: Corpus, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (C) Will Ross