You could say that my computer is one of my most favourite things in the world. I cannot imagine life without it. I use it in my ministry as a priest such as when writing homilies and, indeed, this reflection you’re reading now. I use it for entertainment (for watching movies and listening to music), for keeping in touch with friends and relatives, online shopping, and for creative pursuits such as photo and video editing, web design and desktop publishing. It would be so easy to get too attached to my computer. Indeed, sometimes I do. I’ve been known to miss a meal because I was too focused on what I was doing on my computer to think about my stomach.
I consider my computer as a tool for good, generally speaking. But, like all tools, it could also produce undesirable output. My computer could easily be a distraction from the more important things in life if I let it.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read that Jesus “got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there”. Why do you think that is? Why did the Son of God need to go somewhere far to pray? I suppose it was because the place he had to leave behind was full of distractions: people, noise, tasks, and other things. As a priest, I have to set aside at least five separate periods during the day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. To pray in this way is one of the promises priests make at their ordination. The Liturgy of the Hours aids us in following St Paul’s exhortation to “pray continuously”. To pray continuously is so vital to the Christian life that all priests are under a solemn promise to do so.
And because prayer is so important, it has to be done properly. When you talk to anyone at all, it is right and proper that you give that person your full attention. And so when you pray, it is right and proper that you give God your full attention. That is why when I pray, I have to tear myself away from my computer – away from distractions – so that I can focus only on God. I go to a quiet corner somewhere to give myself the best chance possible to see and hear God, not the sounds and vision that come out of my computer. Many find praying difficult. Indeed, even some of our greatest saints found it challenging. Some even wrote books about it. That’s why it’s so important for us, like Jesus, to go to a lonely place to pray. Noise distracts. Silence communicates.