Isaiah 50: 5-9; Mark 8: 27-35
If you follow Church politics, and it’s really hard not to at the moment, then you know there’s been this debate about Pope Francis being silent on the accusations brought against him, and many others for that matter, except the guy making the accusations. Now I’m not here to judge whether it’s right or wrong. I don’t know it all nor all the facts so it’s hard to make such a judgment in the first place. However, in the age we live we demand answers and justice. We somehow think we deserve to know it all. We want to react and overreact to everything without ever taking the time to step back and allow things to sink into the silence.
All that said, it’s important to keep in mind that both have been silent on it, both Pope Francis and the former diplomat who made the accusations. There is, though, a difference in their silence. The former diplomat is in hiding, not unlike the disciples on that first Easter when they were locked in the upper room out of fear. Quite frankly, it’s easy to throw a lot of dirt and then run, but that is a silence rooted in fear. It leads to secrecy and shame, a silence we’re all too familiar with in our own lives and from the Church for that matter.
There is, though, a silence that accompanies suffering. It’s a silence we’re often less familiar with because we do everything in our power to avoid it. It’s a silence that creates space for uncomfortableness, rather than fear and anxiety. It’s a silence that moves us to deeper places in our own hearts, to a place of freedom, a place where the truth can be revealed. It’s a silence that requires patience, quite frankly, to simply be in our suffering rather than reacting demanding truth, because, quite frankly, for us, it’s a truth that will never satisfy our own restlessness, other than maybe a few days or so, it’s thinking as humans does rather than as God, as Jesus points out today.
It’s this type of silence that Mark writes about throughout his gospel including what we hear today where he warns them not to tell anyone. However, it doesn’t take long for Peter, and the others, to start doing the inevitable. With each passing story there is a small bit of information and fact that is revealed, just as it is today, and they immediately think they know it all. They think they have all the truth and will begin to abuse it. They know what they know but they don’t know why and certainly don’t know what they don’t know. The rest of Mark’s gospel will begin to reveal that mystery until it’s ultimate climax in the paradox of the Cross, the crossing of life and death that will reveal the deeper truth that they desire. So when Jesus warns Peter today about shooting off his mouth, Mark tells us he looks at all of them to do it, warning the crew about their inevitable sin of not being able to sit with what is revealed and allow the deeper truth to continue to be revealed. The next scene is the transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel and following that they will begin to argue about who’s the greatest, who’s has higher stature in the group, and so on, unable to allow the pieces of the puzzle to be revealed, step by step, and learning to live into that mystery, into that silence. It’s painful, and like us, they want nothing to do with any of it. Yet, it’s the only way for truth to be revealed, a truth that goes beyond facts and knowledge. That forces us to stay on the surface and never delve into the deeper problems of a broken humanity.
It is also Isaiah’s struggle in the first reading today. This is a reading we normally hear on Palm Sunday so it accompanies the passion and death of Jesus. He reveals elements of the suffering servant. He too, learns to sit in the silence and allow the deeper truth to be revealed in and through him. Quite honestly, people have had enough with Isaiah at this point. They’re tired of hearing what he has to say. Not unlike us, they’re bombarded with it all. They’re quick to judge, demand stuff, feel abandoned, and getting swallowed up in their own suffering. Isaiah, though, today tells them that God has given him an ear to hear. Sure, there is that physical ear he has like the rest of us, but that’s not what he speaks of here. He speaks of the eyes and ears of his heart. Our physical ears and eyes are too quick to judge. They want proof. They want answers. They demand justice. All Isaiah can do, though, is sit with it. He’s aware they don’t want to hear it. He learns to sit with the suffering and allow that silence to deepen they mystery and allow that truth to be revealed.
In an age when we are bombarded with noise, silence becomes all the more necessary. We have politicians that are constantly throwing stuff at us and more often than not out of fear. They try to manipulate and deceive with perceived facts and truths and all the rest and more often than not because we can’t sit in our own suffering. We want to share it with the world rather than learning to sit in silence with it. It’s the only way to transformation and the only way to move to the deeper places in our own hearts in order to experience the real truth. We can demand and expect all we want, as human beings always do, but only leads to greater dissatisfaction and it’s never enough. We end up acting upon our fear, our anxiety, our own uncomfortableness in life rather than allowing truth to be revealed. It is only in the paradox of the cross where the deeper truth is revealed, not in facts or figures, but in Christ crucified. It’s the piece of knowledge that Peter and the others didn’t want to hear and we often don’t want to hear either. It really is easier to judge, invoke fear, accuse, demand, react and overreact, but it’s a whole other thing when we can simply sit in the uncomfortableness of the suffering that comes with the silence Jesus demands, for, in playing the long game, it is the only way in which the real truth will rise up and be revealed.