Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?’ Have you come to destroy us. I know who you are, the Holy One of God. But Jesus, rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent….
The authority of Presence is not always welcome or pleasant. The practice of contemplative prayer usually reveals bits of us we prefer not to look at. ‘What have you to do with us….’ the man says; not ‘me’, you notice – ‘us’. All those voices in my head – the scolding, judgemental, frightened, controlling, voices, are like a chorus. Someone passes me in the street muttering to himself and I am tempted to label him ‘mad’. But hang on a minute – he’s only voicing out loud what goes on silently in my head! After the ‘Aha!’ experience I talked about in the previous post, comes the steady, persistent work of learning that these voices are not me – not the real me. Somewhere beneath all the chaos of these voices I discover with Paul of Tarsus that I am rooted and grounded in love; that there’s nothing in all creation that can separate me from the love of God.
‘Be silent….’ commands Jesus. Well, I have to admit it’s no use me saying ‘be silent’ to myself when my mind is in full judgemental flow. That’s like pouring oil on a fire. But to find that place of profound silence within me from which I can simply observe what is going on in my head is to find a healing Presence. It’s like stepping outside a crowded, noisy pub into the quiet peace of a warm summer’s evening. You can still hear the noise going on inside the building but you are no longer caught up in it. ‘Unclean spirits’ is not a phrase we would use in the 21st century but once we have caught a glimpse of the Presence that is always there for us, the noisy pub seems a bit tawdry.