My first Christmas card in the seminary was such a memorable one that I still have it today. It was a beautiful up-close picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, head bowed, and eyes closed in deep prayerful silence before the mystery of God who had just taken flesh in her chaste womb. I wondered why the seminary community gave me this particular card. One of my religious brothers said to me, “You got that card because you talk too much.” He was probably right. I could surely talk less and reduce my inner chatter.
Many things happened when Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan river. The heavens were torn open. The Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove and the Father exclaimed, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” All of heaven and earth seemed to be thrown into joyful ecstasy as Jesus was baptized.
But Jesus remained silent, not saying even a single word. He silently soaked in the Father’s affirming words to Him. He silently embraced that inseparable union with the Father as He later attested, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.”(Jn 14:11) He silently let those words of the Father define who He was from all eternity and lead Him to embrace a difficult mission for the glory of the Father and for the salvation of souls.
St. Peter teaches us that, from the moment God “anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power,” Jesus “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38) His silence at His baptism bore fruit in deep inner conviction about who He was and His mission in this world. This silence allowed Him to be constant and generous in His mission in a dark and hurting world.
Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us that for us to receive the graces that come with our baptism and to be faithful to our baptismal consecration, we also must be people of both interior and exterior silence. This silence is not an option for us if we are going to be faithful to the anointing of our baptism in this age of constant noise and distractions.
Without silence, we will never know the abiding presence of the Triune God within us. Jesus knew that the Father was always with Him even when His beloved disciples would abandon Him, “You will all abandon me, but I am not alone. My Father is with me.”(Jn 16:32) Without silent communion with God within, receiving His love and sharing our lives with Him, we can easily feel alone, rejected, and abandoned by God when sin, darkness, and pain enter into our lives.
Without silence, we will never know that God loves us for who we are to Him and not so much by what we do and accomplish for Him. The Father was pleased with Christ at His baptism, long before He even accomplished anything spectacular to the human eyes. He had not preached a single sermon or healed the sick or raised the dead. The Father was pleased with Him primarily because of who He is – the Father’s beloved Son.
We tend to think that we are loved by God primarily because of the good that we do for Him. That is an illusion. We are loved primarily because of who we are in Christ Jesus – sons and daughters of God, “If I give away all I have, and I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”(1Cor 13:3) When we do not accept this truth, we will futilely try to prove ourselves as good persons. We will eventually get discouraged with our poor performance or lack of visible results and give up all together.
Without silence, we will never know our true selves i.e. who we are before God. Without inner silence we cannot see ourselves and our lives the way that the Father sees us because we just cannot hear Him affirming us in similar words, “You too are my beloved son/daughter and I am pleased with you.” He accepts us irrespective of our situation in life because He sees us in His Son from the moment of baptism. Despites the insults and rejections that Jesus faced, He knew His true identity because He received it in silence from the Father.
Without silence, we will lack that inner conviction about our mission in life. We will judge our mission in life by our external conditions, public opinions, and passing feelings. We will easily give up and become overwhelmed in the face of challenges and oppositions. It is in silence that we receive that “love of Christ that impels us.”(2Cor 5:14)
Without silence, we will not know our true needs and the gifts that God has given to us for the sake of His mission. We cannot differentiate our legitimate needs from our endless wants when we are not accustomed to being silent with God within. We then have exaggerated needs and a poor sense of God’s gifts to us. This explains the dissatisfaction we experience even in our consumeristic times.
Without silence, we will not have a pure motive for what we do. We may start off seeking to do the will of God but end up seeking ourselves our own selfish goals. Silence allows us to ascertain the true motives for what we do and realign it with the will of God. The silent Jesus never lost the focus of doing and enduring all things just to please the Father.
Without silence, we will not experience the saving power of God in our lives. We are God’s beloved children and He wants to act in our lives to save us. He does the most amazing things when we give Him permission to do so by our silent time in His presence. Remember how He raised Jesus His Son from the sleep of death. He too wants to do something similar in our daily lives if only we can remain silent and trusting in His presence.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in a very noisy and confused world today. We hear so many scary stories of a stronger variant of the Covid-19 virus, indefinite lockdowns, mandatory vaccines, etc. We also hear of many things that may irritate us like election fraud and senseless violent riots. Many of these things are beyond our control yet we passively let them to dominate our thinking and feeling. We let them to add to our inner chatter about what we must have, must do, must see, etc.
We must begin to sift through all these and weed out the cankerous things in our lives that do not allow us to make that interior journey to deeper union with the God within us. All this noise does is to distract us from soaking in the love that God has for us as His children. We thus begin to waver in our identity as children of God and our sense of mission in this life.
Our God speaks and does amazing things in the heart of truly interior souls, souls who refuse to live on the exterior level alone. These are souls who refuse to be passive receptors of all the mixed and confused messages of our world. These souls are attentive to the affirming words of the ever-present God within. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,
The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence.” (Apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, #66)
In Mary our Mother we see how silence in the face of God’s mysterious love leads to inner conviction and strength to stand with Jesus as He hung dying on the cross. She too was faithful to the very end, constant and generous in her mission. She can help us do the same by sharing with us the serenity of her Immaculate Heart.
Our God is alive and is present in us from the moment of baptism. He again comes in silence in our Eucharistic celebration. Let us receive Him and linger in silence with Him so that we too soak in His love and grace and hear His affirming and convicting words to us, “You too are my beloved son/daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
Glory to Jesus!!! honor to Mary!!!