1st Wednesday of Lent
Every liturgy of the Word is also a liturgy of silence among the words, a space for listening to what God is saying to each member of the assembly. The words of scripture come from the silence of God, and in that silence he speaks to the soul that is silent, not usually in different words, but in the same words that everyone else hears in the readings. God does speak to us personally, he does give us a sign, but it is the same sign he gives to everyone: the sign of Jonah, the sign of Jesus, and of everyone who spoke the Word of God in scripture. We hear God speak to us heart to heart only to the extent that we listen with the ears of the heart, in silence and faith, to the message that he addresses to everyone.
We are not told that any of the Ninevites argued with Jonah, or asked him for a sign to show that he was from God. None of them kidded themselves by saying that Jonah’s preaching was meant for all the other Ninevites. The text simply says that “the people of Nineveh believed God”, and made efforts to renounce their evil behavior. There were no miracles or inner locutions; to the Ninevites Jonah himself was God’s sign, and Jonah’s words were God’s message to each one of them personally.
The words of the Gospel come out of the same silence of God. Jesus himself is God’s sign, just as the word of Jonah was God’s message to the Ninevites. If we want to hear God speak to us personally, he will do so in the words of Jonah and Jesus, and in all the words of scripture. We can improve our hearing by silencing any desire for personal inspirations or for signs of things to come.
Our spiritual life is lived in the great silence of faith, which is an awakening to the truths that God has revealed to me personally in revealing them to the whole world. The spiritual value of our silence comes from our attentiveness to the invisible realities surrounding God’s Word and from our efforts to live by it. It is only when we orientate ourselves toward these realities that the voices of our personal passions begin to quiet down. In silence we can hear God speaking not only to every human heart, but to my human heart, in the same words he uses with everyone, words which will never pass away.
Our silent response is a holy communion with the silence of God, and that communing is a form of prayer. We realize that God has always been lifting up our heart to His, and filling our lives with his presence. That recognition that God has always been speaking to us personally through his Word enables us to give up any desire for further signs from God.
We have only to listen in silence to the note of adoration arising in our heart, the note of charity pursuing the unseen but beloved God, until our personal story becomes common knowledge in the universe.