Be Still and Know that I am God

In the first reading from the Book of Kings, Elijah takes shelter in a cave.  He is told to leave the cave and stand on the mountain as the Lord passes by.  There is a fierce wind that crushes the rocks of the mountain, but the Lord is not in the wind.  There is an earthquake, but the Lord is not in the earthquake.  There is a fire, but the Lord is not in the fire.  After the fire there is a tiny whispering sound, and Elijah hides his face and stands by the cave because he recognizes the Lord in the whisper.

We are surrounded by noise.  It is so easy to be caught up in the noise of everyday life and forget that like Elijah, God speaks to us not in crushing wind, earthquakes, or fire, but in tiny whispers.  The noise of the world drowns out the whispers of God.  In order to hear those whispers, we must listen In order to listen, we must be silent.  In fact, rearranging the letters of the word LISTEN results in the word SILENT.  Each word is contained in the other, and the two go hand in hand.  We will never be able to listen for God’s whispers without being silent.

In his review of Robert Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence, Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, writes, “Noise, as C.S. Lewis’ devil Screwtape famously said, is the music of hell.  Cardinal Sarah offers us a richly engaging, elegantly written reflection of the importance of recovering silence in our own lives, and through silence, rediscovering the presence of God, the beauty of creation, and the nature of our mission as disciples.”

Rediscovering the presence of God, the beauty of creation, and the nature of our mission as disciples is only possible when we recover silence and free ourselves from the noise of the world.  Cardinal Sarah emphasizes that our own silence is necessary in order to hear the silence of God, who dwells deep within man’s heart:

No prophet ever encountered God without withdrawing into solitude and silence.  Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist encountered God in the great silence of the desert.…It is not enough to be quiet, either.  It is necessary to become silence.

For even before the desert, the solitude, and the silence, God is already in man.  The true desert is within us, in our soul…

It is necessary to leave our interior turmoil in order to find God.  Despite the agitations, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present.  He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence whose secret sources are buried in God himself, inaccessible to human inspection.

Solitude is the best state in which to hear God’s silence.  For someone who wants to find silence, solitude is the mountain that he must climb.  If a person isolates himself by going away to a monastery, he comes first to seek silence.  And yet, the goal of his search is within him.  God’s silent presence already dwells in his heart.  The silence that we pursue confusedly is found in our hearts and reveals God to us. (The Power of Silence, pp. 23-4)

In order to hear God speaking in the silence as Elijah did, we must free ourselves from the noise of the world and remain in silence.  Try setting aside just 15 minutes to sit in silence.  Go into a room with no TV, no radio, and no computer.  Leave your cell phone and the internet in another room, and sit in silence, listening for God’s tiny whisper, and practicing the words of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Only in the silence of solitude will we be able to listen for God’s whisper.

You can find this Sunday's readings here.

By: Fr. Tom Gignac


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