Quiet. Stillness. How it reverberates in the soul, speaks to the moment. In a chaotic human experience, Quiet is the gift of the soul to the clamor of each day. Quiet alone draws the curtains of calm and comfort. Quiet marshalls that strength to a soul that has none, and dances with the real meaning of a moment. Quiet lingers while the waves roar until stillness finally arrives and the surface becomes like glass. Quiet makes all the rest palpable and pertinent and possible. And so Quiet is the most extraordinary of gifts in this Ordinary time. And while the Gospel this week has Jesus calling to his disciples, it is the Old Testament reading about the city of Nineveh and the second readng from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians that shout about Quiet.
Nineveh was a city wracked by lawlessness and self-destruction, divisiveness and degradation. Warned of imminent danger by the prophet Jonah, the city united in reparation, fasting and sackcloth. What would have seemed impossible occurred. And according to the story, the city was thus spared. Then there is 1 Cor 7: time is running out…the world in its present form is passing away. Nineveh’s lifestyle shifted; in the world we live in, lifestyles are shifting. And still, Jesus is calling, inviting his disciples to a new life.
And there rests the link to the Quiet. As humanity wanders through this era of loss and recrimination, the power of social and economic structures, the unfolding calamities can devour well being as well as rational focus. Finding footing while juggling the responsibilities of everyday in a pandemic world is daunting. Add to this the uncertainty of what and who is safe, the sharp divide on mask wearing, the struggles of every family to manage what was once so clear: daycare, school, work, travel, leisure, celebrations and gatherings. The din of confusion easily reaches an overwhelming crescendo.
But there is, in each and every ordinary day, the chance for Quiet, to step away, to indulge in a moment of nothingness. That can occur even in a crowded space, if allowed. There can be those moments of deep breaths to gather thoughts, to relinquish fresh pangs of emotion and find something more. We are, after all, the guardians of our own souls, and most responsible for navigating what life brings. Quiet is a tool to tackle the toll of living. This week, the readings promise the presence and necessity of change throughout life. More importantly, each also promises the Divine presence through all of that.
It may be difficult to discern in contemporary rhetoric or in the hypercriticism aimed at one another that a god could be present. It may be implausible, in a world of heightened anxieties, to shift past the tangible to something deeper. But the message of this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time seems profoundly clear: change is a part of life, possibilities always exist, God is always communicating. A big part of the way that happens is in the Quiet. The Quiet of conversation, of silence, of celebrating the Eucharist, of believing that Something Greater Than Self might just be God. Quiet is the venue of becoming, of believing, of choosing to know life more deeply and love more fully.