Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Keeping the wrong kind of silence

Last week on Twitter, Dr Peter Kreeft remarked, "If I had to prescribe one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I'd start with silence." I quickly retweeted that, as did 218 others. We are, after all, on Twitter, where some 6,000 messages are posted every second of the day. It would seem that a little interior silence would do us all some good.

But in today's Gospel the silence is ominous. The pitiful demoniac lived by the maxim, "If you can't say anything good, don't say anything," and so he kept quiet, having only resentful, cynical, hateful or self-pitying things to say.  In fact, Matthew tells us that his silence had a demonic origin, and that people had brought the mute person to Jesus to be healed. That got me thinking, because over the weekend I had an encounter with someone whose silence was anything but golden. It was a grim, resentful silence; the kind that almost imposes silence on those around in that "how dare you intrude upon my mood" kind of way.  It was, to be honest, a scary silence.

Today's responsorial psalm (Ps 115) also refers to an unwholesome silence, that of the idols of silver and gold who "have mouths but speak not." Quite the opposite of what happens when the Lord God is around: "On the lips of children and of infants [literally "those who have no speech"] you have found praise to foil your enemy" (Ps. 8).

If we are "too" silent, it could be because something has been keeping us from seeing, sensing, feeling, recognizing what God is doing in our life (or the very fact that we have a life that is God's doing) and giving ourselves over to praise. We are like the idols that "have mouths but speak not; have eyes but see not; have ears but hear not; have noses but smell not; have hands but feel not; have feet but walk not." Without praise, we are not really alive with the life that God intends for us. Praise is the secret of life!

I have to ask myself today, in the light of the Gospel and responsorial psalm, what keeps me from acknowledging the good, from giving thanks and praise? Am I afraid that to recognize the good is to "settle" for less than I desire? (As if God were to say, "Oh, she's satisfied with this much; I don't have to send her the rest of the blessings she wanted.") Is it because my own expectations are too limited, not open to the surprising abundance that God may have hidden in the unpredictable things that come my way? Am I suspicious of the good that I do experience, as if there had to be a down side to it?

Today I want to learn from Mary to "magnify the Lord" who does "great things" even for me, and I want to grant myself permission to break the silence for the sake of praise.


Kinky Boots said...

Praying for that person acting quiet. I was muted as a child while behaving as a happy, playful child innocently enjoying mouse game at a holiday gathering at my grandmothers when my uncle coudn't stand the high screeching and smacked me with his belt.. I became muted and to this day i can be eerily silent. Maybe that person has an unresolved trauma. Seems weird.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

I am praying for that person, too. I am sure there are loads of unresolved anger issues smoldering destructively beneath the surface. Maybe if we together bring this sufferer to Jesus, healing will begin.

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Real solitude and interior silence can reveal what keeps us from charity.