Silence Louder than Words

Have you ever sat in adoration, waiting for Jesus to say something to you, to make himself known? Have you ever just needed to know he loves you, and in desperation you felt like shouting, "Please, tell me!"?

It can be difficult when God is silent. You feel like you're doing something wrong, like there's some magic code that will get you into the place where he speaks clearly and you hear easily, and you just don't have it. Sometimes you just wish he would walk into the chapel and sit next to you, and look into your eyes. And say it.

In my sonic search for the voice of Jesus, I've been turning to the pages of Scripture. Recently I was surprised to discover, or rediscover, situations in Jesus' life when he was silent. So much of the Gospels are made up of parables, discourses, sermons, and sayings of Jesus, that sometimes we can gloss over the times when he is silent. It's like reading one of those Bibles with the red ink for the words of Christ, and the black ink for everything else, and having eyes only for the red. But what about all that black ink?

Jesus spoke to teach about the love of the Father and life in his kingdom. But he also conveyed this through his actions: his healings and other miracles, and ultimately in his Passion, death and Resurrection. Jesus' crucifixion was the fulfillment of all he said. Doesn't a simple crucifix speak so much to us? The whole Gospel is contained in it.

There are other moments, too. Take John 13, when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. John, who writes so eloquently of the Word, and gives us so many of his beautiful words, pauses for a moment here, midway through the Gospel. He stops to look, not at Jesus' face or his mouth, from which the Word comes, but at his hands. His hands, so accustomed to chisel and plane, reach down to labor once more for his own. Jesus' hands speak. His flesh speaks. The Word became flesh ...

John 13:3-5: "Jesus ... rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded."

He says not a word. But grow very still, as the disciples do, and listen to the movements of Jesus. Hear the rustle of his clothing as he lays it to the side. Listen to the water as he lets it fill the basin. Hear him unloosen the thongs of the sandals. These are the sounds of his love. Jesus, bending low to serve, says everything.

Of course, we do not always understand. Peter refuses Jesus' offer at first, and so the good Teacher explains. Then Peter wholeheartedly accepts. There are times when he will help us understand. But that doesn't mean he loves any less when he is silent. When you are in adoration and it is hard to hear his voice, don't think, "Nothing is happening! He has left me alone!" but think, "I believe You are with me in the silence, Lord. I trust that You are acting to love me, to do me a great service. I do not understand, but I will let You wash my feet."

Jesus, from the monstrance You silently love us, You silently wash our feet. You have laid aside the dazzling white garments of heaven so as to appear before us as a servant. You serve us with Your presence. You speak through Your silence. You are the Word-become-Flesh, dwelling among us. Your emptied hands, frail and fixed, can no longer hold the orb and scepter. Your hands, nailed to the cross, do us the greatest service: they wash us clean so that we can sit at your table, so that we can be with you forever. Thank you for your silence. Thank you for your love.

                                                  - Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.

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