A few weeks ago, my sister, mom, little nephews and niece, and a cousin from Korea came to visit me and they stayed with me at the rectory. When packing to come here, my sister and my mom loaded up the minivan to the top with food to bring to me. Believe me, my mom left me enough Korean food to last me through the winter (that's how mother's are, right?). On their way to Louisiana, they had to pick up my cousin at the airport, and once they saw the size of her luggage they went into a panic. There was no room in the minivan for her very large luggage. How many times do others tell us Americans that we pack much more than necessary when we travel? We all have been there, struggling to keep it simple. But we think to ourselves, 'I may need this.'
When we lose the battle for simplicity in our life, we lose the battle to carry out Heavenly Father's will for us. If you've watched shows such as "Hoarding: Buried Alive," then you have seen people who have lost the struggle to keep their homes simple because they could not let go of things they don't need--their trash. The TV cameras reveal mountains of trash inside a home, and also capture the owner's inability to let go of his belongings, all the while their children are pleading with him to break the habit. All of us watching the show are left with sadness in knowing that this person ceased struggling against self and is living a very self-absorbed life, preoccupied with their trash. It's not the kind of life God intended for him. Yet the person hoarding trash is thinking that he is submitting to God's will. What he is really doing is confusing his own will with God's will.
What does submitting our will to our Heavenly Father look like? I think Mother Teresa can teach us much about how to do this. She said our hearts need to be aware of the Divine Presence in our lives. For us to become aware His presence, we need interior silence, yet silence is very scarce in our culture. The other day as I was walking into Walmart, I heard loud thumping music coming from a car. A couple of young adults walking ahead of me began to dance to the beat. I remember when I was teenager, how I surrounded myself with music most of my waking hours. I wonder now, 'How did I even hear my own thoughts, let alone hear God's voice speaking to me when I gave myself no chance for silence?'
Mother Teresa instructed her sisters, "To achieve true interior silence, we shall practice:"
- Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, closing it to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.
- Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, closing it to all the other voices that come from the evil one or from fallen human nature: e.g. gossip, tale-bearing, and uncharitable words.
- Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking of the life-giving Word of God that is the Truth that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.
- Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgment, false suspicions of others, revengeful thoughts, and desires.
- Silence of the heart, by loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and one another as God loves, desiring God alone and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.
Our silence is a joyful and God-centered silence; it demands of us constant self-denial and plunges us into the deep silence of God where aloneness with God becomes a reality.
Why do we avoid simplicity in life by filling our exterior life and interior life with busyness and distractions? Isn't it because we fear being alone with God? But what will we realize when we are alone with God? As is written in a Responsorial Psalm, "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God." I realize that I have been thirsting and hungering for God all this time. Truly then in that silence we receive a great reward from God:
"O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you."