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Fr Dominik Chmielewski - The Wisdom to Remain Silent

00:00 / 14:29

9 Jun 2024

Second Sunday after Trinity

Genesis 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-End

Special Guest preacher Fr Dominik Chmielewski, Master of the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, and vicar of St Faith’s, Winchester, challenges us not to allow our apparent knowledge and experience stand in the way of hearing God’s voice.

May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Would you please be seated. First of all, thank you for having me again. I've been here a few times before Father Jamie actually assumed his office here as the parish priest.


And it was a joy to be with you and to help before Father Jamie arrived. And it is even a greater joy to be here today and to be united in prayer and to see that the new vision and the new energy is filling this place.


And I pray that God will continue to bless Holy Trinity and the ministry here in this place. We have just heard quite rich readings. I think you would agree with me. And you could use at least, well, one of those readings to write at least two or three sermons.


So it is quite a difficult task to pull them all together into one sermon. But Let me just focus on one theme that goes, I believe, runs through those readings today. In the first one, we have heard in the book of Genesis, we have heard and saw again that moment when Adam and Eve, the first people,


the first created people, are transgressing the boundaries of the commandments of God. Well, I should have commandment, not the commandments. When they were created, God gave them just one commandment. This is for us if we think that there is too much on our shoulders today.


They had only one thing to obey, not to eat from the tree which is in the center of the garden. And what did they do? They broke the rule. They broke the commandment. Because it shows that within ourselves we are unable to maintain the righteousness and the holiness without the aid and the help of the Holy Spirit.


So what happens when they hear the steps of God? going to the garden, what they do is they are hiding somewhere, maybe in the shrubs, maybe in the cave, somewhere they are hiding and God is looking for them, asking, where are you? And they say, we are hiding because we were afraid.


We were afraid when we heard you coming. And the gospel today is giving us a different scene, but a very similar story. There is a crowd surrounding Jesus. All are pushing him into the house so much that there is no room for them even to eat.


And they are shouting and they are calling him names because when they hear that he is coming with the presence of God, they are afraid to acknowledge that. They are afraid to say, yes, he is the son of God. Yes, he is the presence of the living God among us. Shouting loudly that their voices


that their voices are silencing the voice of God himself. And the gospel ends with the beautiful words of Jesus to his disciples, Behold, my mother and my brethren, for whosoever shall listen and do the will of God, the same is my brother, my sister, and my mother. To listen. to hear and to do the will of God.


This is not the easiest of tasks, and I think you will all agree. Perhaps this is the most difficult charge that we can hear and see in our lives. Because how can we hear and listen to the words of God in a noisy world?


How can we be sure that what we are doing is indeed the will of God when everyone is saying something different? How can we, surrounded by the cacophony of noise, in the church itself, we can be sure that we are following the right path, the way that Christ himself has given to us?


How can we even start doing so? There is a story, another story in the Gospel, about a man called Zechariah. I'm sure you all know that story. It's a story that happens about nine months before John the Baptist is born. Zachariah is John the Baptist's father.


Zachariah is also a priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, a priest of God. And the story happens when it is his time, his turn, to go to Jerusalem and to minister at the altar of God. He comes with his team and they draw lots. and they will determine who is doing what.


This is their way of putting a rota together in the old days. So they draw lots, and Zechariah is appointed to the sacred duty of entering the sanctuary on his own and burning the incense on the altar in the presence of God. An honourable thing indeed.


He is a little bit excited and a little bit terrified because he knows that he will be standing in the presence of God. He prepares himself He needs to wash and change his clothes and enter because he knows that he's walking into the presence of God.


And as he walks in, and as he is facing the altar with the incense, an angel appears to him. Not something that would be unheard of. I'm sure it happened many times to various priests, and he knows the story. And when the angel of God appears to him, he says, Zachariah, and he is terrified. Zachariah says,


You will be a father. Your wife, Elizabeth, will be a mother to your son. You will call him John. He will be the prophet of God. He will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him.


Now, Zechariah is over the age of 60 at that time, which in ancient Israel was a threshold of old age. The Bible calls him the righteous, the teacher of Israel. And yet, when he turns to the angel in fear He says to him, how can it be?


How can it be that I, an old man, can be a father and my wife, who is of my age, can be a mother? You're clearly mistaken. He is hearing the voice of God speaking directly to him and yet he says, my priestly experience and years of my ministry tells me that you are wrong and I


am right. His experience is His life, his position, silence, the voice of God in his life. He's not allowing God to speak because he knows better. It is all about him, not about God present in his life. It is all about him. So what happens? God will never allow it to continue. So God is taking action.


And he's turning to Zechariah and he says, until my word will be fulfilled in your life, you will be silent and God mutes Zachariah. He mutes his concerns, he mutes his voice, mutes his experience, mutes his position and says, you will be silent because I will be speaking in your life.


Silence is the way for Zachariah to recognize, receive and accept God's word and God's promises. Silence is the way for us to recognise, receive and accept God's promises in our lives. Silence, which perhaps is the most important and the most difficult condition in our life. I remember vividly my pre-ordination retreat, which was now some years ago,


and when we were forced into a three-day of silence. We were taken... The whole team of us was taken to a retreat home and we were asked not to speak a word to each other, not to talk during meals, not to talk when we pass each other in corridors.


We were only allowed to speak in the chapel when we were praying. Now, I have to tell you that that was not an easy thing to do. That was not only uncomfortable, but it was physically very challenging. Because it is challenging when you are being left alone with your thoughts, when you are being pushed into silence,


and when you need to face that something that is deep within you. And allow God to speak and to take and fill this silence of your life. I was reminded then, and when I was preparing this sermon, I was reminded again the words, the verse, from a poem by St. John Paul II called the Roman Triptych.


If you haven't read that poem, please do. In one of the verses, he uses an ancient Latin phrase, omnia nuda et aperta, sultante oculos eis. We are all naked and uncovered before his eyes. And this is what really is uncomfortable when we stand before God, that before his eyes we are all naked and uncovered,


We stand before him vulnerable. We are exposed because we know that he is seeing everything and he can look through our hearts. It is uncomfortable at first. But after some time you start to understand that this is the only way that you can be united with your maker. The peace and silence or the peace of silence.


comes to overtake you and your life, and you feel immersed in his presence. And you start to hear his voice. You start to understand his words. They become clearer and clearer by minute. You start to notice what is really important and what is of value in your life and in life in general, and what is not.


And even though it may sound like a banal, it is not. Once you experience that silent presence of God in your life, you will understand. This is not something that I can convince you about. There is another story in the Gospels, one of Mary of Bethany, the one who is sister of Martha and Lazarus, and St.


Francis de Sar in his sermon about her, he says that she is the same person who broke that jar, of precious oil and came to Jesus pouring it on his feet. The precious oil was worth one year's wages. Now, for a moment, think how much you make in a year. What is your annual income?


And think whether you would be ready to do the same, to take all your money, all you make in a year, and break it and pour it on Jesus' feet. It is something that is absolutely pointless in the eyes of the world and something that is precious in the eyes of God.


And this is where the difference lies. Something that is pointless in the eyes of the world is something that is crucial and of the greatest importance for us. Take prayer. Take us sitting here in those pews today. For people outside, we're wasting time. just like Mary wasted that oil.


But we know that there is a depth, a hidden layer of that presence here. We're not just coming here to spend an hour sitting in uncomfortable pews. We're coming here to touch the divine, to be moved by the presence of God. to be encouraged by his word, to be fed by his sacraments, and most importantly,


to be changed and transformed so when we leave this place, we don't leave the same, but we leave changed, better, every single time we come here. So think about today, about Mary, who is breaking the oil and pouring it on Jesus' feet. Think about Zechariah,


who is coming and has to be muted to see and understand the presence of God. Think about those in the crowds that are shouting to silence the presence of Jesus in their life and think about Adam and Eve who are hiding when they hear God


walking into their life and make a decision which of them you want to be. Do you want to allow God to enter into your life? Do you want to give him that silence to be wasteful in the time that you're offering to him, to allow yourself to spend time in prayer, in meditation, in reading of the scripture,


wasting it on God, because you know that this is precious in his eyes. He is waiting for you. As he was waiting from the moment of creation itself, He is waiting for you, and He knows what you will learn when you will start entering the silence of God, that this is a liberating experience.


When you realize that it is not about you, not about us, but about Him. About Him who loved us first. And He waited so long for His word to be fulfilled in our lives. So when you hear His steps in the garden, When you hear his voice in the crowd,


do not silence him with your experience and with your knowledge, but allow him to speak and be silent before him. Amen. Amen.

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