Only God Matters

WORD Becoming, Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar SVD (Philippines)

Once upon an urban stroll into places my peso could go,
I entered a shop groaning with used or second-hand books.
Hoping to find a treasured tome, thankfully I found one.

On the first blank page of the book, someone’s hand had
decisively written: DISCARD. Oh? The library-card holder
pasted inside revealed that it was St. John the Baptist
Lending Library at Chestnut Street (probably in the USA)
that no longer wanted it. How this book with 1991 copyright
landed in Cubao for me to see it that day I entered, is one
of those wonders of Providence that come to us if we but
see it. So there. One hundred pesos for the hard-bound.

SILENCE ON FIRE by William H. Shannon
who had earlier written SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD,
and had sub-titled this second book, The Prayer of Awareness.

In his introduction, Shannon says that the reason he wrote
this book was that he sees that there are so many people
today who are searching for an authentic INTERIOR LIFE.

“They want to build an inner unity that will enable them to
make decisions about their lives and. actions in freedom
and in peace…”

“The climate in which the spiritual backbone of this inner life
is discovered (or rather recovered) is the climate of prayer,
especially that prayer without words, in which a Voice –
deep within and inseparable from our truest self – speaks
to us from the depths of our own silence, as that same
Voice spoke to Moses from out the burning bush.”

“It was when Moses was
in the wordless silence of the desert
that God came to him; and Moses experienced
a deep and abiding sense of the divine Presence.
The way God came to him changed his life.
For it set his SILENCE ON FIRE.”

Chapter 4 of the Book is titled From Awareness of God
to Awareness of People, with a line from Psalm 116:8,
“I will walk in the Presence of the Lord in the land of the living.”

“Would you be shocked if I were to say to you
“ONLY GOD MATTERS;
apart from God NOTHING ELSE MATTERS”?

“Would you, on hearing such a statement, be inclined to say
to me:”How can you be so cruel? My family matters.
My friends matter. My job matters. People suffering
throughout the world matter. The poor matter.
How can you possible say of the poor and of my family
and friends and of my work and of so many good things
that – they don’t matter?”

“If you were shocked by my saying this and were getting
ready to burn the book in indignant protest, I would simply
assert (probably with a certain degree of smugness)
that your attitude betrays the sad fact that
spiritual apartheid had struck again.

“For such thinking would be proof that you are thinking
of God as APART from His/Her creation.
You would be thinking that,
when I said, “ONLY GOD MATTERS’,
I was also saying that your family, your friends,
and indeed all the good things of creation don’t really matter.”

BUT THAT ISN’T WHAT I WAS SAYING AT ALL.

I was saying that
“APART FROM GOD, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS”.

But I don’t want to think of all these good things (family, friends,
etc.) as being apart from God.
For, as I have been insisting,
NOTHING EXISTS APART FROM GOD.

God is the Hidden Ground of Love in which all reality
finds its being, its identity, its uniqueness.

Once God chose to create, it became impossible to think of God
without thinking of all of us and of all of reality.

“Thus, I was not saying
that all the things that you hold dear don’t matter.

Rather, what I was intending to imply, in the light of what
I have already said, is that
All those things matter
PRECISELY BECAUSE — they are IN GOD.

Apart from God, they don’t matter.
For apart from God, they do not even exist.”

It is my prayer that as we enter the 30th Sunday in Ordinary
Time, we have these thoughts in our hearts as a way of
taking in the Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40
where Jesus gives the answer to the question,
“Which commandment in the Law is the GREATEST?”

“You shall LOVE the Lord your GOD,
with ALL your HEART,
with ALL your SOUL,
and with ALL your MIND.”

This is the GREATEST and the FIRST Commandment.

The SECOND is like it:

YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
AS YOURSELF.

The whole Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

In SILENCE ON FIRE,The Prayer of Awareness,
the summary of William Shannon’s thoughts are in
THREE PRAYERS:

1. HELP ME TO LIVE IN YOUR PRESENCE
(Prayer, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

2. MAY I EXPERIENCE THE JOY OF LIFE
IN YOUR PRESENCE
(Prayer, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

3. I WILL WALK IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD
IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING
(Psalm 116:8)

ONLY GOD MATTERS.

This is our story for this Sunday.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

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