Today is a day of great silence. The whole world is in silence. God has died, in his human nature. What a great mystery! God has submitted to death on the cross at the hands of human beings. The depths of his love, mind blowing. In his crucifixion, Jesus Christ, the new Adam has reversed the disobedience of the first Adam, and thus destroyed the curse of sin and death. While his body lays in the stone cold tomb, he has descended to Hades to liberate the souls of the just who have long awaited for the gates of heaven to be opened to them.
It’s great day of silence.
I’ve been thinking a lot about silence since I was hospitalized again in February. This year, thankfully, I was very much aware of my time there. I wasn’t delirious the whole time! It was good to see my friends, the nurses and techs again. Yes, there was noise, there was constant activity— but there was silence and there was peace as well. I’m thankful for the experience. In a mysterious way, I feel that it was a second chance for me to really profit from being in the hospital (because I lapsed into a kind of ingratitude a month or two later). Many graces were poured out for me personally and for those known and unknown, as they were last year as well. And it wasn’t lost on me that the Vatican meeting on the sexual abuse crisis was happening while I was in the hospital. I believe God wanted me to be in the hospital so I could pray and offer sufferings for the cause. My prayer is that I don’t forget the experience.
While I was there, some nights were very difficult. Because I was fully aware, I was also conscious of the pain from being in one position. The nurses would check up on me but it would seem that I was sleeping because my eyes were closed! I had to wait until they would actually come into the room. So, as I lay there unable to speak or move, I offered it up to the best of my ability. I really felt that Jesus was there with me. I felt that I was with him on the cross. He was nailed to the tree unable to move. And, he exhibited such a humble patience and a loving acceptance to the Will of the Father. “He opened opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter… ” (Isaiah 53)
I believe that the “Good Thief” who was crucified alongside Jesus recognized something of his Divinity. He saw power, he saw that this was Someone who had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again. St. Dismas, as he is now known, saw that this was indeed a King who was going forth triumphant into his kingdom. The other thief, the “Bad Thief” didn’t raise his mind upward but rather look down and cried out that the man crowned with thorns should take him down from the Cross with him. But the other thief looked heavenward and believed that Jesus was going to heaven and he wanted him to take him up with him. And he was rewarded for his faith when Jesus looked at him said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23).
As I lay there on the cross of the hospital bed, I saw myself as the “Good Thief,” and interiorly whispered the words, “Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom! ” He was right there in my midst. Even though it was painful, my heart was filled with joy because I knew he heard me. God may seem silent but he always hears us If we cry out to him from our heart. What a blessed silence that afforded such an opportunity!
The hospital was not a prison, it was a desert where I could find God in silence. It was preparation for entering into Lent.
“The Power of Silence,” by Cardinal Robert Sarah was a book mentioned to me by my sister while I was in the hospital. Our modern world is in such dire need of silence, silence in which the voice of God can be heard in the recesses of the heart. As she read me the introduction during the last week of my hospitalization, I was touched by the example of the dying monk who had multiple sclerosis and was confined to his bed, unable to move or even speak. All he could do was smile. This young Carthusian brother’s witness of silent love inspired the Vatican Cardinal to write the book.
One of the quotes from the book: “The real men of God have no fear of death, because they are waiting for heaven.”
And so, on Holy Saturday, the world in silence awaits the return of the King, the Resurrection and the Life! Christ our God is victorious over the gates of death. He will rise, never to die! Praise to His Name!
Have a wonderful Easter!