I have struggled as a Catholic to encounter silence. And I am not talking about the type of silence found in monasteries, I am talking about the silence of the soul. For those of us that have learned to operate in chaos, we beg for the silence of the early morning, but run from it when it comes. So if the hallmark of my faith is to spend time clothed in silence, how is it that I can persevere? I don’t think I am the only one struggling. Whether it be trauma, a chaotic upbringing, or the unruliness of our lives in general, it is often difficult to achieve the goal of silence. But maybe it’s because we are asking to climb the mountain rather than simply sitting on the grass.
In today’s reading, we find Jesus about to feed the 5,000 or so hungry souls that have come to him for food. But it isn’t just food they are seeking, it is godly nourishment. They’ve realized, like their ancestors before them, that God’s provision is needed and they’ve gathered in chaos to ask Jesus to help them. But unlike Moses, Jesus is able to quell the crowd of desperation. While Moses is asking God why he must deal with his own people, Jesus is busy just dealing with them. But before He does, this happens,
“and he ordered the crowd to sit on the grass.” Matthew 14:19(a)
That thought troubled me. They were desperate, hungry souls begging Jesus for help, and His response is, sit on the grass. And as I kept coming back to Jesus for answers, he kept repeating that verse, sit down on the grass.
I couldn’t get comfortable. I read it again and again. I sat in the corner of the floor, listening to Gregorian chant and staring at the Greek icon of what we Westerners call, “Our Lady of the Way.” I was waiting for a mountain top moment, but it never came.
I went down several different routes, researched, prayed. Mary kicked me into high gear and gently led me right back to Jesus. I didn’t and couldn’t understand how to enter the scriptures. I couldn’t understand how the goal of Lectio Divina was not to “seek information or motivation, but communion with God.”
So I dumped all or most of the information on the various roads I had taken to understand why Jesus was ordering me to simply “sit on the grass.” I went outside and did it. It was wet and the dry Vegas air was hot, but I was there. I simply did what Jesus told me to do. The goal was not to “understand” the scripture but to “enter it.” Four hours or so later, I was finally enjoying communion with God.
I think often times we long for the mountain top experiences and we miss Jesus by not simply sitting down on the grass. The grass prepares us for those mountain top experiences. If we come with no agenda but simply to be with Him, the warmth of the day will resemble His face.
I looked on at the mountains I once longed to be near and I realized that my vision had been misplaced.
It is in the grass and not the mountain that we learn to be content in all circumstances, we are grounded, rooted in Him and close to the earth He once walked.
The mountains suddenly seemed beautiful but distant. I was able to hear the voices of my children, and my mother was able to discern that I was meditating. The glow of Christ.