“Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.” – Lk 1:64
Because God’s compassion is so tender, it is mysterious. At the announcement his son’s birth, the elder Zechariah asked for a sign. Little did he know that he would receive a dramatic one: he became mute for nine months. Some say he was punished for doubting. Yet, my experience of not talking for months after undergoing orthognathic surgery helped me to see Zechariah’s imposed silence as effective preparation. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth have been waiting all their lives for a child as well as for the Messiah. Little did they know that these longings would both be fulfilled in their newborn. For nine months, as his son was growing in his wife’s barren womb, Zechariah was being prepared in silence. God prepared both husband and wife to join the unfolding drama of God’s saving love. When John was born, Zechariah spoke again, immediately blessing God. He sang an effusive canticle which included: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1: 78-78).
During a silent retreat eleven years ago, I experienced spiritual gifts that eluded me. Perhaps because they were deep and tender, they were beyond me. Gradually, I have come to realize that God was preparing me for Christus Ministries bridging young adults and parishes. God has been readying me for all of my life actually, albeit hidden. Like Zechariah, I discover it better through silence.
I am convinced that God has been preparing each of us to take our place in the mysterious and tender drama of God’s liberating love. Like Zechariah (as with Mary and Joseph), listening in silence is the best way to cooperate with God’s dream for our lives.
Let us follow Pope Francis’ advice to ask God for “the grace to love silence, to look for it and to have a heart guarded by the cloud of silence.”