11 February 2010. Thursday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 11, 4-13; Psalm 106; Mark 7, 24-30
I posted this note on the wall. I wanted some space away from the maddening crowd. The entire area had been a place where musicians, students and friends stayed and created music. But once in a while I needed a break. This was the reason why I resonated with Jesus.
Mark said that when Jesus went to Tyre, He went to a house and wanted no one to notice. He wanted some space. His life had been crowded by people who were in need. And yet, in the Gospel, He was not able to escape notice. The Syro-Phoenician woman insisted to have her daughter healed. And because Jesus was impressed by her persistence, she got what she wanted.
Today, we focus on the need to be alone. We have different labels to this need. Spirituality calls this, solitude. Modern jargon calls it, our me-time. It is the moment when we literally withdraw from conversation, from others, from the barrage of media, from noise, and yes, even from music and newspapers that distract us. It is the time when we remove our “scaffolding” as Henri Nouwen describes it: when we leave behind what props us up, the things that make us feel useful and important. In solitude, we don’t bring anything. It is just you and God.
Our world tells us that we are important when we do something. Or, we feel valuable when we are of use. So we are constantly on the go. We are on a rat-race. But after some time, we become tired. So we need to slow down and stop and review our lives.
For a brief period, I used to be with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). I used to see referees reviewing recent basketball events. Some of these events were painful to them. They saw their mistakes recorded on videos and there was no way to deny them. But there were also moments of redemption when they were spared from more mistakes because they learned from the past reviews.
This I believe is what we do when we take our time alone. We look at the events that transpire in our lives and see how God has been with us, or what God is saying to us.
These moments of solitude can be done regularly, like small pauses during the day. Or you can have it at longer periods like a one-day recollection, a weekend retreat, or to some an 8-day respite from everything. Whatever the duration, we have to acknowledge that we need solitude. That is why, the word solitude is the most appropriate: there is no “me-time” because it is always a date with God. Nothing can separate us from God, as St. Paul says.
What can solitude do? When our “Syro-Phoenician woman” insist that we all return to the rat race, we will be able to work out a miracle.