Today I present a second excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on cultivating the art of inner silence. The first excerpt was given yesterday.
However, there is also a second important connection between silence and prayer. Indeed it is not only our silence that disposes us to listen to the word of God; in our prayers we often find we are confronted by God’s silence, we feel, as it were, let down, it seems to us that God neither listens nor responds. Yet God’s silence, as happened to Jesus, does not indicate his absence. Christians know well that the Lord is present and listens, even in the darkness of pain, rejection and loneliness.
Jesus reassures his disciples and each one of us that God is well acquainted with our needs at every moment of our life. He teaches the disciples: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:7-8): an attentive, silent and open heart is more important than many words. God knows us in our inmost depths, better than we ourselves, and loves us; and knowing this must suffice.
In the Bible Job’s experience is particularly significant in this regard. In a short time this man lost everything: relatives, possessions, friends and health. It truly seems that God’s attitude to him was one of abandonment, of total silence. Yet in his relationship with God, Job speaks to God, cries out to God; in his prayers, in spite of all, he keeps his faith intact, and in the end, discovers the value of his experience and of God’s silence. And thus he can finally conclude, addressing the Creator: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5): almost all of us know God only through hearsay and the more open we are to his silence and to our own silence, the more we truly begin to know him.
This total trust that opens us to the profound encounter with God developed in silence. St Francis Xavier prayed to the Lord saying: I do not love you because you can give me paradise or condemn me to hell, but because you are my God. I love you because You are You.