Into Silence – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jesus orders the unclean spirit to come out of a possessed man. Be silent! Jesus is given credit as being one who teaches with authority because of this, and other actions. The crowds say of Jesus in today’s Gospel, what is this?

A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. Elsewhere in the Gospels, we hear that Jesus commands the stormy waters. He brings about peace in the hearts of terrified disciples.

Who is this who is able to bring a calming silence – to our anxious hearts, to our worries and fears, to warring factions both within and outside us? It is true in normal times, let alone COVID time!

I live these days in a very quiet environment – a retreat centre and Jesuit community surrounded by more than twenty acres of land. My window looks out on a bucolic setting. The property is at the dead end of a not-very-busy street.

My window is at the back of the house, so I don’t even get the noises of the trucks delivering food and supplies. I sometimes miss the constant noise of the city. This pandemic time has required me to spend many months without venturing into the city. When I used to head in, I lasted a few hours before I was desperate to get back to the quiet of this place.

That’s not how I first experienced the place. I thought that I would go crazy with the silence. But now, I’ve become quite at peace with living in a retreat-like environment. When I find myself missing noise and constant activity, I can head to the Starbucks a couple of kilometers away. But I cannot linger there.

How times have changed! It’s an ironic fact that my regular location for writing for igNation in its first few years was actually Starbucks and other places where people gather in our culture. I would leave the quiet space of my Toronto office in order to find extroverted stimulation.

Now I wonder how I was even able to think. How we change! Most posts are prepared as I look through a window of peace.

A great deal has been said about the noises in our culture. A great deal has also been offered about the internal noises in our heads and hearts.

Pope Benedict XVI described this as well as anyone. We live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be ‘filled’ with initiatives, activity, sound; often there is not even time to listen and dialogue… Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able not only to perceive God’s voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others.

I find myself wondering how I can find the ideal combination of silence and chatter.

I’ve been reading two works from Martin Laird, an Augustinian priest. Reading is the wrong word. I can read a paragraph or a page and find myself in a place of peace and contemplation.

Into the Silent Land and A Sunlit Absence both deal with the Christian practice of contemplation. They help me to reflect on the place of silence in my life and how at ease or not at ease I am with the silence. What is your relationship to silence?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:24h, 31 January Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 05:43h, 31 January Reply

    Who is this who is able to bring a calming silence. Jesus said quite calmly . Come to me all who are troubled and afraid and I will give you peace. Trusting in the Love of Jesus is the only way we will come to a fuller understanding of just who we are. I am so grateful that I am able to live in a quiet, unobtrusive environment and yet I am fully involved in my communities. My times of private prayer and involvement in the liturgies are just so fulfilling and nourishing . Don,t be afraid to step aside from the obsessions of life. Seek more to Love the presence of Jesus in your life and you will be free.

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 08:56h, 31 January Reply

    I have much more times of silence in the C19 era, so thanks for your advice Phil. When I replay/read again your words of “silence” in my mind I am reminded of the words of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song of silence. So again…thanks Phil. Richard

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 11:24h, 31 January Reply

    Thank you Fr Philip for your post. As always, thought provoking for me. I realize that as I age like fine wine, I am becoming more and more comfortable with silence. It brings serenity, tranquility and peace within my spirit. It has been a work in progress, something I’ve had to get used to. I have found that in silence that the Lord has spoken profoundly to me. It has taken some time but it is so worth it. Thank you again, for this time of reflection.

  • Bernice Dookhan-Khan
    Posted at 23:38h, 31 January Reply

    Thanks for your reflection Fr. Shano.
    I believe that God has a reason for allowing such a silence in His cosmos via the pandemic. I don’t mean to sound selfish but I enjoy the presence of God much more in this silence and stillness caused by the pandemic. It has benefited the environment as I can actually feel the difference in the air I breathe on my way to church for personal prayers.
    This present silence, I feel, is a gift from God with less worldly distractions and more quality time for the Lord. In St. Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity) words, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence.”
    In conclusion, I can just sit here in silence and simply reflect and contemplate on these beautiful words from: Psalm 46:10: “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT IBAM GOD”.
    God bless, Fr. Shano

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