Homily for January 28, 2019 (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1: 21-38

Last weekend an estimated 300,000 people gathered in Grant Park here in Chicago for a Women’s March.  They were joined by millions of other women who came together in other places in the USA and the world.  As with last year’s march, the focus was on empowering women and girls and demanding equal rights and dignity.  This year’s march, however, had a stronger focus on fighting sexual harassment and assault, particularly in the workplace, and there was more emphasis on encouraging women to run for elected offices.

Whether the matter of concern is police brutality, political corruption, one-party rule, or the defense of the most fundamental human right of all (the right to life), people all over the world regularly take to the streets to make their voices heard, their presence felt and their demands known by those in power.  Marches, demonstrations and even nonviolent civil disobedience are all ways to fight evil and to promote justice and peace.

However, today’s readings ask us to consider the importance of something different: quiet—not merely as a tactic before and after actions but rather as an essential spiritual element of the life-giving changes that we need in ourselves and in the world.  Before Jesus drives the demon out of the unfortunate man in the synagogue, he commands it to be quiet.  This week’s commentary in At Home with the Word 2018 notes that such stillness can be the missing ingredient in lasting conversion and healing:  “In the face of our own demons, both internal and external, perhaps the command ‘Quiet!’ is the one we first need can God’s words of direction, mercy, and healing enter our lives” (40).

Jesus knew the importance of quiet, which is why he made it a priority to get away for times of solitary prayer and communion with his Father (c.f. Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35 and 6:46, Luke 5:16 and 6:12). Quiet enables us to listen to God’s voice, whether it comes to us directly or through others like prophets. Quiet also softens our hearts, which can easily become hardened (Ps. 95) and it gives us the space we need to discern how to respond to God.

Times of quiet can declutter our minds and enable us to focus on what is essential, so that in Paul’s words the only thing we are anxious about is serving the Lord.Sometimes we need to be creative to find the time and space for quiet. I’ve recently discovered it in the car with the sound system turned off.

Quiet opens us up to a world and to needs beyond our own. In the coming weeks, for example, we in Chicago will have the opportunity to embrace a wider church through our support of the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Jesus commanded the demon, “Quiet! Come out of him!”He might just as easily say to us, “Quiet!I want to enter more fully into your heart and life.” +