Sunday Scripture readings, Aug. 13, 2017: God speaks in silence

The Catholic News Service column, "Speak to Me Lord," offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

The Catholic News Service column “Speak to Me Lord” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A Readings

     1) 1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A

      Psalm 85:9-14

      2) Romans 9:1-5

      Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33

 

By Jem Sullivan
Catholic News Service

Jem Sullivan writes for the Catholic News Service Scripture column, "Speak to Me Lord." (CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

Jem Sullivan writes for the Catholic News Service Scripture column, “Speak to Me Lord.” (CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

“God is a friend of silence,” said St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Amid the noise and busyness of each day moments of silence are sacred spaces in which God speaks his love, mercy and wisdom. We grow in friendship with God in times of silence, however brief and fleeting.

The saints discover the soul’s need for silence as they grow closer to God in prayer and through love of neighbor. They arrive inevitably at the experience of the prophet Elijah who encounters God in a tiny, whispering sound, bathed in silence, as recounted in today’s first reading.

Obeying the Lord’s command, Elijah stands on the mountain of Horeb to meet God. He knows where God will be revealed, but not how.

One can imagine Elijah’s fear, eagerness and curiosity as he waits. For like Elijah, we too feel that deep, interior longing for God, a desire that only God satisfies.

As Elijah waits, powerful forces of nature sweep the mountain side. First, a strong, heavy wind followed by a shattering earthquake, and then a blazing fire.

But the Lord was not in these awe-inspiring displays of nature. In the silence of a tiny, whispering sound, Elijah encounters the Lord.

We, like Elijah, encounter God not in the extraordinary and powerful, but in simple, ordinary moments of each day. God draws near to us not because of our brilliance, attractiveness or prestige, but because of our quiet humility and weakness.

Jesus’ earthly life was marked by silence and solitude, especially as he prepared for key moments in his ministry. Today’s Gospel reading is one such example. Before Jesus calms the wind-swept waves, he went up a mountain by himself to pray in silence.

Then Jesus appeared to his disciples during the fourth watch, the quietest time in the darkness of night. Rushing wind and stormy waves engulf the disciples. No wonder they were terrified and mistake Jesus for a ghost!

“O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” says Jesus to Peter who is overcome by fear, even as he attempts to walk on water toward the Lord.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus’ words spoken in the noise of the stormy sea, in the dark silence of night are spoken to us as well. Noise fills our day, from our waking moments to the time we rest at night.

Whether we intend it or not, whether we like it or not, we are immersed in a world of exterior and interior noise, growing louder each day. Noise distracts and empties, leaving little room for God.

Taking a quiet moment to read and meditate on God’s word in silence, we too will, like Elijah and the disciples, encounter the still, small voice of God as we say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Quote:

      “God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man. … Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being.” (Cardinal Robert Sarah, “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise”)

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Jem Sullivan, wife and mother, author and professor, writes on faith and culture in the new evangelization.

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