Hello to all. I couldn't help but reflect on yesterday's historical Urbi et Orbi bestowed by Pope Francis (27th March, 2020). The scene could not have been more significant to the message conveyed. The silence was overwhelming. Standing as a lone figure in the deserted St Peter's Square under the falling rain was the prelude to the reflection he shared from the Gospel of Mark 4, 35-41.
It is a message which addresses our fear in the midst of the turmoil which is tossing our boat to and fro. Our lives, with all our routines at "breakneck speed" and in total oblivion to the world around us, have become in disarray. We realise that previously we might as well have been existing, for all we know. Now, this situation is making us stand up and listen. Surrounded by a new and unknown threat, we are not in control any longer. The storm, to use Pope Francis' own words (as they are so poignant), exposes "our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules” and lays bare “all those attempts to anesthetize ourselves.”
We are in a storm together. Jesus seems silent. Jesus was sleeping on the boat in the episode from Mark 4. We might cry out where God is during these moments. The answer is silence. We attested to that scene yesterday in the Square of St Peter. Yet that silence is a dynamic silence which impels us out of our complacency and oblivion. God is acting in that silence. It is an empowering silence which draws out of our illusions and makes us see the starkness of life. Our faith is challenged but this is an occasion for our faith to grow. The silence draws us to the stillness where God speaks to our heart. We could all feel that power yesterday in that scene. The power of silence is greater than the power of the storm. The silence is the gateway to stillness where God speaks and empowers us. It is the prelude to our action in the world. It is no surprise, then, that God speaks in silence. Jesus retreated in solitude to pray, and yet he came back into the world. The silence of God is the voice of God's reassurance which compels us to reach out to him. It is an invitation to grow in faith. For faith is given to us by God who graciously empowers us to grow in it through his "divine pedagogy."
Fear is part of life but faith is the antidote which helps us channel our fear into hope. Pope Francis says: “Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.” We cannot eschew fear because we are vulnerable human beings, but we can channel it into something meaningful with the grace of God, and in the process, become liberated from it.
For God accompanies us throughout our experience of life. He has done so by becoming man and sharing in our experiences, even those prompted by fear. Hence, our life with its tribulations, makes sense if lived in the presence of God. But we must be reminded that this experience of fear and suffering must look forward to the Resurrection. Christ has reminded us that "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Jn 16, 33) Christ has overcome and redeemed the world. Our suffering becomes our redemption through Christ.
Note: All quotes of Pope Francis have been taken from the Vatican News website (accessed 28th March 2020): https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-blessing-coronavirus.html