Chapter Talk – Fifth Week of Lent – April 3, 2022, cycle-C
How does the Word of God speak? In what way or ways do we hear the Word of God speaking to us? Is God’s word a silent word, silent though still speaking? What happens if we separate out silence from the word? Do silence and the Word belong together? Clearly, they do.
Jesus is right in the middle of a conflict, a conflict he did not create but one where his prophetic words and witness are not accepted by the established religious leaders and teachers. The story tells us about a woman caught in adultery, who is brought before Jesus by certain scribes and Pharisees. They quote the ‘law’ which Jesus knows to test him: “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (Jn 8:5). The first response of Jesus is to bend down and begin writing in the dust…his first response is silence….The first ‘word’ we could say that Jesus speaks is SILENCE. Jesus descends into a contemplative space…he goes inward and listens. And then there emerges from Jesus the prophetic word, the word of life, the word of truth, the word that shakes up one’s present posture, the word that strives to break the heart open into mercy and compassion….
Jesus’ response is silence, combined with the silent gesture of writing in the dust with his finger. How do you think his accusers are feeling with this unexpected response? Jesus remains silent, bending over, seemingly writing in the dust with his finger, and yet these self-righteous religious leaders continue with their dishonest questioning. Did they get more uncomfortable as their words resound back to them, words that are empty, hypocritical in their intent? Does the silence shear away the authority of their words, diminish their standing as religious leaders? Silence as an initial response is disarming them…Their hypocrisy slowly is revealed, and they realize that they are caught in their scheming. We don’t know how long Jesus was bent down writing but when he stands upright, he faces his accusers with the Divine words that pierce the heart’s deception: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). After the silence, Jesus’ reply is with an economy of words…One can feel the silence surrounding his words, and sense the hidden power of God’s word, the power to transform and to heal sin. Jesus lays bare in this encounter the ‘new wine’ that he is bringing, the new wine of mercy and forgiveness. He has come to save not to condemn.
Is not Jesus incarnating these words from Hebrews: “The word of God is something alive and active…it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts” (4:12). And what are the tools he uses? What is his antidote, the healing medicine? I would wager to say that this is contemplative prayer, descending into the silent depths where the word of God births forth, a word that emerges out of silence. The true home of the Word of God is silence. And we can access that silence, that silent contemplative space any time, and anywhere…in the market place as well as in the quiet of the church. In Mark’s gospel Jesus tells us, “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say… because it is not you who will be speaking: it will be the Holy Spirit” (Mk 13:11). Descending into the silent depths, with the anchor of faith, open to receive the word, the silent word of the Spirit that will speak the word of truth, the word of life and love.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess