Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 13 August 2017
1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
[30 seconds of awkward silence]
Our parents told us that “silence is golden”,
but we know the truth:
silence is awkward.
Silence is awkward, at least for us,
because we have no idea what to do with it.
Merriam Webster defines “awkward” as
“lacking dexterity, skill, or expertness”
“not easy to handle: requiring great skill, ingenuity, and care.”
Silence, then, is awkward for us when we encounter it,
we lack dexterity in dealing with it; we don’t have the skill to handle it.
Silent moments therefore become uneasy to handle;
indeed the navigation of silence requires “great skill, ingenuity, and care.”
The obvious reason is that, for us suburbanites,
the practice of silence has become like
the practice of writing a letter, looking at the stars, or walking to store:
for the most part, archaic.
We are the people who have outgrown stillness,
who have ascended above the need for silence and recollection.
Or so the marketing firms would have us believe.
But again, we know the truth: silence, while awkward, really is golden.
I talk to so many people,
both in this parish and in the other places I go,
who say some variation of:
“Yeah Deacon, I’m doing well,
but I wish wasn’t so busy. I wish I had more free time.
I wish I had more peace and quiet.”
Peace and quiet. I crave it. You crave it.
Yet every opportunity that we have to really enter into some peace and quiet,
we find ways to blow it away.
So many afternoons I get the chance to leave the office
and home to the rectory for a little nap.
Then 45 minutes later, I’m still scrolling through Facebook and checking emails.
Every once in a while I have the chance to spend a quiet night at home.
I always find ways to fill it up with this or that
– and usually these things are good –
but it takes away from the time that I truly need to rest and recharge.
There’s nothing bad about spending a free night at a coffee shop with an old friend.
There’s nothing wrong with using free time to catch up on work.
But there’s also nothing wrong with free time.
Silence is the language of God.
It does not mean that God is silent;
“God speaks, in so many ways, although his voice is silent.” (Sarah)
Why all this talk about silence?
Because a relationship with Jesus Christ is impossible without it.
Relationships are built by conversing and sharing with one another,
but their sealed and made strong by sitting quietly together,
totally comfortable to just be with the other.
“My relationship with Christ is expressed in my work and service.”
“My work is my prayer.”
Well that’s maybe how it’s expressed, but that’s not how it’s built.
A healthy relationship with Jesus, it seems to me,
is two parts intimacy
and one part mission.
And we see examples of both intimacy and mission in each of our readings this morning.
After having just slain 400 prophets of baal in a river,
the Prophet Elijah is in a state of chaos,
when he receives a message from God:
“Go outside, the Lord will be passing by.”
And, like many of us, Elijah was looking for something indicative
of a mighty Godhead passing by.
Strong, heavy wind. No God.
Earthquake. No God.
Fire. No God.
“Tiny whispering sound.” Elijah immediately hides his face
and goes to the entrance of the cave
to greet the Lord.
In the second reading,
Paul is speaking the Christians in Rome in the midst of his travels
and ministry elsewhere.
“I speak the truth in Christ; I do not lie.”
He speaks the truth in Christ precisely because he knows Christ!
Because he has spent time with Christ,
because he knows what it is to be intimate with Christ,
he is able to do the work of Christ.
Because of his intimacy and relationship with Jesus,
he is able to carry out his mission.
If we persist in doing charitable works in the name of Christ
without actually knowing him, we become merely social workers.
If we persist in limiting Jesus to our prayer time, or only to Sunday Mass,
and do not take him on mission into the streets and schools and workplaces
then we fall victim to a kind of irrelevant piety.
Even Jesus practices this equation in his relationship with the Father.
Right before our passage this morning,
Jesus has just finished multiplying the loaves and fishes.
Now he is meeting his disciples in their fear on the sea.
On both occasions, Jesus is coming from and going
toward solitude on the mountain to pray.
Everything that Jesus does – miracles, healings, ministry, and mission –
is punctuated by a “return to that native solitude.” (Merikakis)
Why do we avoid silence, especially with God?
Many reasons, but perhaps most of these reasons are rooted
In the silence, I am totally exposed.
In the silence, I am at risk of being seen for what I truly am.
In the silence, I cannot defend myself.
In the silence, you are loved.
You’re just loved.
Imagine trying to build a relationship with your spouse or with your best friend,
and having the desire to look into their eyes
and chat with them, laugh with them, spend time with them,
and most of all, to let them know their loved
And this person never looks at you,
is always on their phone around you,
is always reading the church bulletin in your house,
comes late to your dates or is always leaving early,
or just pays you the lip service they think you want to hear.
It stinks when people treat us this way,
and hopefully we would be like to someone we love,
So why do we do it to God?
Today, what is an obstacle to your recollection?
what is keeping you from entering into Mass today?
Tell him about it.
Don’t hide yourself from him.
Just tell him whatever is on your heart,
even if it means being angry with God.
It is always okay to be real with him.
Practically speaking, what concrete steps can you take
to increase the silence in your life throughout the day?
If you’re waiting in line, look around and people watch instead of at your phone.
Have the kids design a bucket where everyone will put their phones before sitting down for a meal.
Resist the urge to make awkward filler conversation.
Think of one thing that you can purge today so free up space in your home and in your heart.
If that thing you want to get rid of is an app on your phone that sucks up all your time,
and puts anger in you,
maybe Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Tindr,
I invite you to take out your phone right now and join me.
Go ahead, for real.
In front of God and everyone,
I’m deleting Snapchat and taking a break from the distractions it brings.
We all need a little honesty, we all need a little intimacy,
we all need a little silence with him.
Jesus, take us with you up the mountain to the Father.
Jesus, fill us with silence.
Jesus, help us remember we are never more intimately united with you
than after we receive your body and blood.
Make this time a time of true peace,
and give us the courage to let you in.
Give us the courage to let you come in,
not to punish, uproot, or complicate;
but simply to exist, simply to be.
We love you Jesus, we trust you Jesus, we need you Jesus, we thank you Jesus.
Quiet our hearts, and open our eyes that we may proclaim with true faith in the silence of our hearts:
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”