Lenten Reflections: Part IV – Mary Jane Vigil, OSB continues….
Fasting speaks to other than just food or being materially poor. Those who are truly poor are pushed and yanked around, do not know what forces are doing the pushing, and have no clue about how to break out of their cycle of poverty. We who are educated may be materially poor at times, but is unlikely that we can be yanked around by unknowns as the poor and uneducated are. Still, no matter the level of education and sophistication, when we are faced with the mysteries of life, of suffering, of our destiny, of the earth’s fate, of each other’s love or lack thereof we are often unable to solve the riddles or arrive at quick incisive answers that can open us to true wisdom, the larger sense of life in the mystery of God, which is a gift of God’s Spirit. St. Benedict knew this when he admonishes us to spend extra time reading Scripture or spiritual books. He knew it keeps us in touch both with our poverty of knowledge and the richness of wisdom offered to us. We are social creatures and often are not comfortable with solitude. We fill spaces with with music, with television, noise, texting, with someone or something. All are good things, however when we are driven to avoid true intimacy, a deep and risky communion with our God and with one another then we must beware. Filled space means no time to attend to the other and no need to do so. There is a frightening emptiness about us that we would rather not face most of the time, not because we are bad but because we are frightened. We are afraid of the risky intimacy that God or other people invite us to. Benedict’s talk about needless talk and idle jesting may just be his way of saying we need to attend to real relationships and not stay on the surface. Often our chatter and unquiet minds create a kind of sound insulation around ourselves. We block out the other words, we block out the Word. Benedict tells us to empty ourselves of words internal and external in order to become the silent poor.