Weekly Homilies

Cultivating Sacred Silence

January 17, 2021 Fr. Mark Suslenko
Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut, part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I’m Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this Season 4 episode 6 for the Second Sunday in ordinary time:January 17, 2021. Our gospel reading is from John, Chapter 1, verses 35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,

“What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” 

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

The Gospel of the Lord

Cultivating Sacred Silence, by Rev. Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

For all that we're encountering personally, in our country, and in the world, I thought I'd break with my usual tradition this morning and tell you a feel-good story that hopefully can lift spirits and at least put a smile on your face. A little backdrop to the story first.

A few months ago, I started this new tradition of, at least on Saturdays and Sundays, bringing my dog, Oliver, with me over to church to unlock it. Now, most of you have met Oliver and Harry, at least through the bulletin, however, in Oliver and Harry's corner, if not directly and in-person, or you can hear them barking from my window.  Anyway, so in order to pull this off, bringing Oliver over to the church, cause I can't bring Harry because here he doesn't do leash very well.

So Harry has to stay home. So we were putting Harry in the backyard so that I could take Oliver out because there's no other way to do this and have it work. So Harry goes in the  backyard, Oliver and I come over to church. We unlock the church. Oliver gets his little time. He's all happy. We go home. And then Harry gets all angry because something happened that he didn't know anything about and it's completed.

Okay. Over a few weeks' time, Harry caught wise to this whole scheme and then refused to go out. So that cut out Oliver's trips over to the church. So now Oliver is bent out of joint because he can't get his time with dad over at church. So Oliver, this morning, I think the light bulb went off in Oliver's brain.

He said, I'm going to set this straight. And so he starts this commotion. You would think the biggest squirrel God ever created was in the backyard of the rectory. And he starts howling and going at the door. He wants to go out. Of course, Harry gets interested. Now they're both ready to go out. So I said, okay, go outside and get whatever it is you want to get. I open the door, out, goes Harry. Oliver stops, turns around and looks at me and said, I got rid of him, let's go.

I'm not making this up. And so I go get the leash. We go over to the church. Oliver gets his Oliver tonight. He's all happy. We go back to the rectory, I let  Harry in, and Harry beats up Oliver. And that's how I started my day. This morning at 5:30 in the morning.

It's good to laugh, especially at the innocence of animals. 

In our lives as Christians, believers, we have to, at some point make friends with, cultivate, fall in love with, silence; sacred silence. We live very distracted, very orderly, very busy lives. And sometimes we convince ourselves that if we spend some time quietly we're almost wasting time. And so we don't often put much thought into creating a space of quiet. If we don't do this and if we don't fall in love with silence, if we don't see it as a priority in our lives, then what's going to happen is that we're going to find ourselves listening to the wrong voices. We're gonna find ourselves listening to the voices of the world. And those voices often come back at us with messages that speak of fear, of anxiety, of uncertainty. Feelings that resonate mistrust, discord, disharmony. You hear voices of apathy, hopelessness, despair, and we lose touch with the truth of who we are and we get distracted and all wrapped up in this "worldly business" that causes us to forget what we're really meant to be and do here, and who we really are.

It's only when we begin to fall in love with sacred silence, through the habit of intense, holy prayer, that we can begin to listen to the real voice, trying to get our attention - and that's the voice of God. And when we begin to do this, we begin to ponder what it is we really, really want and desire. What really satisfies the longing of the human heart, the longing of the human soul?

And we start to peel back on all of our superficial desires, those things we think satisfy us, but at the end of the day, really don't. And so in sacred silence, in a moment of holy prayer, we can become more focused on what we really are looking for. And I think when we begin to open that up a bit and begin to listen to it, I think most of us would agree that we really would love to return to our innocence. We would like to see that restored. That there's something good about the innocence of life, something holy about the innocence of life. That we really desire to achieve balance, harmony, peace, connections. That we want relationships in our lives that work, not relationships that are broken or relationships that are unjust.

And I think we all want to live on this planet that God has given us united with one another and in peace. And as we begin to enter into this sacred silence, as we begin to fall in love with what we find there, what we see when we look out at the world begins to change. 

Our vision becomes more acute. Our perception deepens, and God uses those moments in that time to help us see God more clearly. And we look out at the world and we can say, " Behold, the lamb of God." 

You know. C.S. Lewis has a wonderful quote which really helps us get a handle on what is it that our faith can really do for us. And he says,"I believe in Christianity, believe in Christianity, just as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but because by it, I can see everything else."

"I believe in Christianity just as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but because by it, I can see everything else."

You see, when we begin to have this relationship with God, the way we see the world changes. And that's what makes the gift of faith so special. So that when I look out at creation and I see the changing of times and seasons, and the processes of the earth unfolding, I can point and say, "Behold, the lamb of God," when I see somebody who's struggling, somebody who's lonely, somebody who's hurting, somebody who's confused, somebody who's broken and wounded.

I can look and say "Behold, the lamb of God."

I see somebody who can't figure out where home is, or someone who is poor, or someone who can't find food, or someone who is angry, someone who is in despair. I can point and say, "Behold, the lamb of God"

If I see someone struggling with illness facing their final moments, somebody who's in prisoned, I could point and say, "Behold, the lamb of God."

You see, the wonderful gift of our faith shows us that the death and the suffering and the resurrection of Christ is not something that just happened once. It's something that continually happens throughout the created world throughout all time and space. Everything is a story about the suffering and the death and the resurrection of Christ. And for you and I as Christians, this is good news. This is hope. This is not a dead end, but it assures us that even in darkest hours, God is still trying to do what he does best and create and recreate new life.

What we see makes a difference. And when we allow ourselves to see, as God directs us to see, the gifts we find in those holy moments of sacred silence, that's when we really tap into meaning and truth. When I can see the world and in all things "Behold, the lamb of God," because here's how it works: if I look within myself and I look outside of myself, what I then do as a result of that is going to reflect what I see. So if I look within myself and I see darkness, I look outside of myself and I see darkness, then what I do is then going to reflect darkness. But if I look within myself and I see light and hope and I look outside of myself and I see light and hope, then what I do is going to then reflect light and hope.

Now, imagine if you will, the ramifications of this on our government, on society in general, on how we structure and organize our homes, our work, and even our churches. What we see within determines what we see without and what we do.

"Behold, the lamb of God."

Father Mark Suslenko  is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us. 

Gospel: John 1:35-42
Homily: Cultivating Sacred Silence