In your prayer do not babble on as the pagans do….
Babbling means long-winded, empty chatter such as, unfortunately, we find in many a church, temple, mosque and synagogue, not to say in most political discussion.
We are on the seventh day of Lent. Quite possibly the energy of the fresh resolutions of Ash Wednesday (to give up something and do something extra) may already need renewal. Knowing what it is we need and consciously looking for it puts us half-way to finding it. It’s true, if we truly seek we will really find. Finding means seeing now that what we were hoping would appear later is already here, just waiting to be recognised. The dimension of time undergoes an alchemy once we and the present moment touch each other here.
Between good intentions and action there is usually a short-lived connection. It quickly disconnects before the fruit has ripened. Addiction is existential. Unhooking from its patterns is healing. The good intention to meditate is a good idea that makes us happy we decided for it. But, when we run up against a glass barrier between intention and action, the optimism of our will crumbles. We see clearly what we want to do but an invisible force comes between us and what we want and feels impenetrable. This is where the babbling starts as we talk, read or think too much about what we are still not yet doing.
We come up with infinite reasons to justify this failure which lead us to reject as fake the very thing we had until then been trying for. This betrayal of trust explains why relationships can suddenly plunge from bliss into misery. The glass wall is reinforced by noisy, often malicious babble, until we become deflated. Anyone listening to the Brexit debate knows the feeling. We are left with the unsavoury experience of shame and disconnection that follows all division and violent conflict. Divided against ourselves, failing to do what we want, we experience the meaning of ‘sin.’ Far from being the mere breaking of a rule, human or divine, sin is only understood when we confess how powerless we have been made by our own inner divisions and self-rejection.
Whatever we do in this collapsed state of egoism brings little good to us or others. Many hands will be extended towards us when we ask for help in escaping it. Some of them ask for an agreed price to be put in them, before they will pull us out. Happy are we who grasp a hand that asks for nothing except the honour of helping us. Our sense of worth is already restored. These are the elements found in that interior movement of consciousness called metanoia (change of mind) and often badly translated as ‘repentance’. Not guilt but a change in consciousness.
This is what Jesus starts to say after he leaves the desert, empowered by all that he has transcended. We begin the process of change not by building a steely will but simply by changing the direction of our attention – giving our attention elsewhere. Reality is where we place our attention. It cuts through the babble of the mind and dissolves the plate glass wall of inaction.
Read other Lent Reflections 2019: Week 1