January 22, 2023 - Pastor Message03/27/2023
THE YEAR OF MISSION
THE MISSION TO LISTEN (cont.)
“The Lord said to Elijah: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light, silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kings 19:11-12).
A light, silent sound. That is how God revealed himself to the prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb. Not in the strong, violent wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the silence. Continuing our reflection during our Year of Mission on the mission to listen, we reflect today on our need for silence. If we are going to listen to God and others as the necessary first step in carrying out our mission to sow and nurture the seeds of God’s saving love in the world, we need to stop talking. We need silence.
Silence creates the space in our minds and hearts for the voice of others to truly be heard, not just as an empty, meaningless sound, like the tornado, earthquake, and fire at Horeb, but as a revelation of the person who is speaking to us, full of life and meaning. By listening in silence, we welcome not only the person’s words but the person him or herself into our awareness and into our lives, creating a communion of persons that did not exist before and would not exist if we did not listen in silence.
That is why moments of silence are an integral part of our celebration of the Mass. We pause seven times for silent reflection during Mass, some for different specific reasons but all for the general reason of preparing for or deepening our communion with God. We first pause during the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass, when we reflect silently on our sins, which separate us from God, but only so that we may then reflect more deeply on his great mercy, poured out in Christ, that reconciles us with him. We then pause before the Opening Prayer. This prayer is officially called the “Collect” because we collect together all of our individual prayers and intentions, expressions of our faith in God brought to mind during our silent reflection, in the one prayer offered by the priest.
The most important silent reflection takes place during the Liturgy of the Word. Here God speaks to us through the proclamation of his inspired Word, revealing himself and his saving will for us throughout all of history - from the dawn of creation, the long night of the reign of sin, and the promise of salvation in the people of Israel in the Old Testament, to the fulfillment of the promise in Christ and the Church and the culmination of all things in the eternal dawn of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament and the gospels. We pause for silent reflection after each of the three readings and the homily to hear what God has to say to each of us and how he offers us deeper communion with him at that Mass and in our daily lives.
The final moment of silent reflection during Mass takes place after we receive Holy Communion. The specific purpose of this silence is to offer personal thanks and praise to God for the great gift of the Eucharist, but it also acts as a time of reflection on our entire celebration of the Mass and of asking God to help us live the deeper communion we have celebrated with him in our lives, carrying out the mission Christ has entrusted to us and now sends us out to serve among our brothers and sisters, listening to them and their needs and uniting them with God, whose life within us is the fruit of our listening in the silence.
Fr. Marc Stockton