Last year around this time we were in the early weeks of everything shutting down as the pandemic spread throughout our nation and the world. In many ways, our lives had come to a halt overnight. We were all learning to navigate a “stay at home” world. What stands out most in my memory was the hollowness I felt as I tried to figure out how I would be celebrating Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter. Can it really be a celebration if I’m at home alone, completely disconnected from my parish community? In the ensuing weeks it was disorienting to know we were in the midst of Easter while it seemed as though we were still very much entrenched in Lent.
There is no doubt these experiences and the continuing realities from the past year affected the way I approached Lent this year. You might recall from my reflection last month that I developed a “menu” of Lenten practices that I could choose from each day to intentionally make room in my life for God’s grace. In these weeks I have been amazed by the ways I have seen God working and moving in many different situations and in the lives of numerous people. It is interesting, though, that in my prayer, God has mostly been silent.
As we are now on the threshold of Holy Week, at a time when I have never looked more forward to Easter, I’ve been pondering this seeming absence in the midst of such an abundance of grace that I’ve seen all around. It strikes me that this weekend we will end the Palm Sunday liturgy not with song, but in silence to mark our entry into Holy Week. I can’t help but wonder if God’s seeming silence in prayer and our entering Holy Week in silence might be an invitation to something more.
Our lives tend to be filled with busy-ness and noise. Many of the things that contribute to the busy-ness and the noise are good things! They are things we enjoy and find life-giving, things that connect us to those we care about. Other things involve basic necessities of life or are associated with our obligations and responsibilities, and might not always be as enjoyable. In the midst of the busy-ness and noise of life, it is easy to miss God.
I think the experience of silence can be an invitation enter into stillness. Entering into stillness necessitates slowing down and perhaps even coming to a halt. While stillness may or may not be silent, it involves minimal amounts of moving from place to place both physically and interiorly.
When I was praying with the Gospel reading we hear on Palm Sunday for the procession with palms, I was drawn to the phrase, “Jesus drew near to Jerusalem” (Mk 11:1). I realized that drawing near to a city is relatively easy because cities stay in one place. They don’t move! When I, on the other hand, tend to be a constantly-moving target, it isn’t nearly as easy for Jesus to draw near to me.
Perhaps this is why the Psalmist exhorts us, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Ps 46:11). Throughout Lent, I have been intentionally making room for grace. I think this is the invitation God has placed into that space. I pray that Holy Week will be a time when each of us enter into stillness and allow Jesus to draw near so we might come to know more fully that he is God.