Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: 1st Book of Kings 19:9, 11-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 9:1-5
Gospel: According to St. Matthew 14:22-33
Despite the excitement of the Gospel story, it is this weekend’s first reading, the story of the prophet Elijah waiting for the Lord to pass by, that seems to be the most relevant and compelling. We live in a time and place where there are many fires, earthquakes and heavy winds, but the most damaging of these are not in the physical realm. Our personal lives deal on a daily basis with enough psychological and spiritual fires, earthquakes, and heavy winds to keep mental health professionals and pastors busy all day, every day.
With all of the noise created by these phenomena it is difficult to hear what needs to be heard, to discern any small yet healing voice telling us how to be made whole again. One such voice belongs to Robert Cardinal Sarah, former Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, on the Atlantic coast of Africa. In 2014 he was appointed by Pope Francis to be the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. Like Francis, Cardinal Sarah has been a strong and clear voice in defense of the traditional cultures of African nations against the subversive colonialism of the decadent West.
Cardinal Sarah has published two books since moving to Rome, the second of which – The Power of Silence – focuses on the need to repel the fires, earthquakes and heavy winds that keep us from hearing the “tiny whispering sound” that Elijah heard at the entrance to the cave at Mt. Horeb. Originally written in his native French, the English translation of La Force du Silence adds the subtitle Against the Dictatorship of Noise to help place the need for silence in its modern context.
Ironically, the desire to write a book about the importance of silence did not come as a reaction to spending time in one of the worldly shrines of noise like New York or Los Angeles, but as the result of visiting a friend in the Abbey in Lagrasse in southern France. Cardinal Sarah first met Brother Vincent in 2014 when the young monk was less than two years away from his eternal reward, his body ravaged by multiple sclerosis.
Their first meeting was one that left a deep and lasting impression on the cardinal, he believed himself to be in the presence of a saint. During two years of visits and phone calls, Brother Vincent could only listen, for he had lost the ability to speak, and his silence had a profound effect on Sarah. Their relationship reached its zenith at Brother vincent’s funeral Mass presided over by Cardinal Sarah where the universal nature of the Church and the communio of our Faith were on full display. As the introduction to The Power of Silence states, “The son of the Guinean bush spoke in silence with a little French saint; this friendship is unique and indestructible.”
The book’s introduction continues by asking some extremely important questions: Why did this happen to Brother Vincent? Why did he have to go through such a cruel and painful disease? Why did a powerful cardinal and a humble monk meet? Finally, “Who was looking for Brother Vincent? Who came to take him without a word? God.”
The encounters with Brother Vincent-Marie of the Resurrection were the catalyst for the writing of The Power of Silence and provided it with its themes, especially the theme of God’s silence in the face of evil and suffering. From Brother Vincent Cardinal Sarah learned that the answer to all of our questions can be found in silence alone, and that answer is the title of his other book: God or Nothing.