Sixteenth Sunday: Turning Off the Sound

 and Turning on the Lord


            As many of you know, I recently returned from the LifeTeen Leadership conference at Notre Dame University.  This is an extremely intense five day workshop/ retreat for about 500 high school Teens.  And you might also know that 70 of our young people are just in Atlanta this weekend, on a youth conference hosted by the Franciscan University at Steubenville.  Three thousand or more Teens are there. There are nineteen of these conferences held throughout our country and Canada this summer.  There is great hope for the Church in America.


            When you have a large number of young people, you have to keep them busy to keep them focused as well as out of trouble.  Busy minds and bodies can’t find creative ways to drive you crazy, not that teenagers ever do that.  At least not ours.  So you have dynamic talks and prayer services.  You have fun spiritual events and serious spiritual events.  You have beautiful liturgies and games for the free time.  You spend hours and hours preparing well to provide for the kids.  Anyway, with all of these wonderful experiences the various retreat teams provide, the Teens most often have the same answer when the experience is over and you ask them, “What was the best part?” Time and again, the Teens will say that the best times during the retreat was the quiet time, usually before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, but sometimes just alone, sitting under a tree, talking to God and listening. It floors me that being introduced into spirituality, the Teens embrace it with determination.  These Teens who are wired for sound 24/7, appreciate the times when there is no sound.


            We all have a need for quiet.  We all have a need to be away from the noise of the world and be alone with the Lord.  Jesus himself would seek out a quiet place to pray to the Father.  In today’s Gospel, He encourages the disciples to join him in prayer, in the quiet.


            Don’t get me wrong, I have been in many of your homes and the sound of your children laughing and playing is beautiful music.  But Mom and Dad still need some quiet time with the Lord,  to put themselves together, to reconnect with the Lord.  So do the children.  And so do I.  All of us need quiet time to be with the Lord.


            There are questions that we have to ask the Lord every day.  One of them is this: why am I doing what I do? Why do I go to work, shuttle the kids around to school and sports.   Is it for one of those fleeting moments of family life when none of the kids are in trouble and Mom and Dad love being with them and each other? Is it more than this?  Am I doing all this so we can provide a decent college education for the children, weddings for the girls, and a happy retirement for my spouse and me?  These are good and noble and Christian goals for life?  They are full of self sacrifice and are ultimately teaching the children what love really is.  Perhaps then we can ask the Lord to show us how to raise our children to serve Him.  Even more than that, maybe it is in the quiet that we can seek out the whole reason why each of us exist and why we have bothered to bring children into the world in the first place. Why do I do what I do?  Am I so busy so I can provide a spiritual home for the people of the parish. I can’t be busy because I think I’m going to get a better job.  The “Joe for Pope” campaign has fizzled. Why do I want to I want St. Ignatius to be the finest parish it can be?  It is in the quiet that I have to seek out the reason why I am a priest and the reason why this parish exists.


            Deep questions need to be asked and answers need to be sought every day.  But we cannot do that without going into the quiet. How can you do that, especially if you have children? How can I do that, especially if I have a large number of people with daily needs?  The only way you and I can find the time to be in the Sacred Quiet is to make the time.  This may mean getting up a half hour earlier than the kids, or going to your room after the kids’ bedtime prayer before hitting the TV.  In these days of TIVO and DVR’s there is little excuse for not setting time aside for the Lord before perching in front of the tube.


            But we don’t need the quiet just to ask questions.  We need the quiet just to be with the Lord.  A busy, problem solving, program starting, priest, we’ll call him Fr. Bill, noticed a new man at daily Mass.  The man in his mid forties would  go to morning Mass and then sit in the Church for an hour.  It actually irritated Fr. Bill a bit, because he didn’t want to disturb the man, but sometimes he needed to do something or other in the Church that would be distracting.  Besides, there were plenty of ministries the man could get involved in if he had time every morning.  So Fr. Bill decided to chat with him to see if he could gently move him to be occupied somewhere else.  “Hello, I’m Fr. Bill.  I believe you are new to the parish.”


            “Yes, my name is Fred.  I moved here a few weeks ago.


            “So Fred,” said Father Bill, “tell me, how is it that you have so much time to spend in church every morning?”


            “I don’t go into work at the a local store until 1 o’clock,” Fred said. As they were talking Father Bill realized that Fred was a bit slower than most men. 


            “Well, I guess I can’t have him doing something too intellectually trying,” the priest thought. Then he asked, “So Fred, would you like me to find something for you to do in the mornings after Mass.” 


            “No thank you, Father,” Fred said.  “I am busy enough right here.” 


            “OK, well, God bless you, Fred,” and Fr. Bill left him. 


            A number of months went by, and Father noticed that Fred was still there for over an hour every day. He also noticed that Fred wasn’t reading prayer books or anything.  He was just sitting or kneeling there.  One day, Father Bill decided to speak to Fred again, not to entice him to leave, but to find out what exactly he was doing for over an hour every day. 


            “Fred, tell me about these prayers that you say, every day.  I don’t see you with a prayer book, but I know you are praying.”


            “I don’t say any particular prayers, Father, other than starting with a rosary.”


            “Well, what do you do the rest of the time, Fred,” Father Bill was seriously wanting to learn from whom he now realized was a very good man.


            “Well, Father,” Fred said, “the rest of the time I look at Jesus and Jesus looks at me.  That’s more than enough.”


            Now, Fr. Bill had made many retreats in his life.  He had embraced many different spiritual programs: centering prayer, Journaling, Ignatian exercises.  They were all great and powerful experiences, but no one spoke more eloquently about the spiritual life than Fred in just those few words.


            We need quiet time to be with our Lord.  We don’t have to say any particular prayers.  We don’t have to have an agenda of things to do.  We just need to be with Christ.


            Our world is too busy, way too busy.  Our lives are too busy, way to busy.  But, really, we are not that different from the first disciples.  They had just returned from healing and caring for the sick.  They had hundred, maybe thousands of people gathering around them, wanting to hear about the Kingdom of God.  They were busy doing the Lord’s work.  Perhaps, too busy.  Jesus told them and us, what we need to do.  “Come with me,” he says in the Gospel, “to a deserted place and enter into the quiet. Then you will be ready to get back to the work of the Lord.”


            Every one of us is busy.  All of our lives are full of noise.  But all of us can find ways and must find ways to turn off the sound, and tune in the Lord. We have questions to ask, and a Divine Presence to cherish.