By Fr. Greg Shaffer – Assumption Parish, Washington DC.
You know the world we live in is a noisy one when silence rubs us the wrong way. Most of the noise that surrounds us is chosen – the next time you walk through the streets of a downtown area, notice how many people are using earphones. Silence usually scares us. Any of us who have ever led a discussion group know that there will be moments of “awkward silence”. But this obviously goes deeper than social awkwardness; it’s more than emotions or feelings. The truth is, silence brings us face-to-face with reality. Many people avoid reality, especially the reality of the Cross in suffering. After 14 years as a priest, I’m convinced that many people have left the Church and/or stopped practicing their faith because they don’t want to deal with the reality that the Church represents the Cross.
Sometimes, however, after a while of enduring unavoidable commotion – such as a loud election season or all the other drama of this year – silence can seem a little less daunting... Hopefully, as we enter this 2020 Advent season, silence is something we can all joyfully embrace.
I always remember one woman at my first parish assignment asking for “thirty seconds of silence” after the Holy Communion hymn. She said it is so calming, peaceful, and refreshing to be silent. She is so right! Also, and even more importantly, when we enter into silence in the Presence of the Lord, we hear the voice of God. Elijah heard God not in an earthquake or fire or wind, but in a “tiny whispering sound” (1 Kings 19). Just as God grows things in nature in silence, God speaks to us in silence. All of the world’s coping mechanisms that clutter our minds and hearts with noise can’t compete with the Lord. They might bring us pleasure, but not the peace that comes from the voice of the Lord. His voice is our best consolation for reality.