“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert…” (Luke 4:1)
Listen…….pause for 30 seconds….don’t read any further and just listen…to silence….
That sound is so rare. Many of us avoid silence. I know there have been times in my life that I have avoided it, but yet the most blessed times I have had in my spiritual life are when I have embraced it. Only in silence can we listen to the voice of God. Only in silence can we listen to one another in a culture where we constantly try to yell over the other. On this First Sunday of Lent, we journey with Jesus into the desert where the gospel tells us that he had no food and was tempted by the devil. Another thing Jesus encountered in the desert was silence. There was no better way to prepare for his bout with the devil and for his public ministry than to be embraced by the silence that allows the voice of the Father to be crystal clear.
So why are we afraid of silence? Why do feel the need to constantly fill our lives with noise? We are told that friendships are fostered by good communication, but I have found that my greatest friends and I can be together in perfect silence in a car, at a restaurant, or just about anywhere and not say a word and yet communicate so much. My grandfather was one of the gentlest souls I ever encountered and he rarely spoke. In the silence of his actions is how he communicated his greatest lessons. My father and I when we go fishing have sometimes gone through long periods of time without talking while our lines are in the water. The only sound is the waves and the breeze. It’s not that we have nothing to talk about. Quite the contrary. Silence at times speaks volumes and I’m not talking about passive aggressive silent treatment. I’m talking about the silence that communicates so much love. Just look at St. Joseph who said nothing in the Bible. Look at the brief words of Mary who through her silence taught her son so much. We need to make room in our lives for silence.
This begins in prayer and in particular in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This week a friend passed along an article along from Cardinal Robert Sarah who is in charge of Divine Worship in the Vatican. The article was on the virtue of silence in the liturgy. Now I’m not perfect in this aspect because there have been Masses where silence has been almost non-existent, but as a priest I have always tried to instill silence as the Roman Missal demands into the celebration of the Mass. I do this more in my celebration of weekday Masses, but I have to be more consistent with this on Sunday. We need silence before Mass. We need silence after the readings and homily. We need silence after Communion. And we need silence after Mass is over. How else are we going to process this mind-boggling mystery that we celebrate every Sunday of Jesus becoming present to us to speak to us and feed us.? (Side note: One of the things Pope Francis insisted on in his trip to Mexico was quite time in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe)
This is our challenge this Lent. As we journey with Jesus into the desert, we must make room for silence in our lives. Sit in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel where a word is never spoken. Go for a walk or a jog without your headphones and without music and just listen to the wind. Listen to what our Lord listened to during his 40 days in the desert: nothing but silence that welcomes the voice of the Father.