The Vestment of Silence

This homily was given at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA on the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 11, 2022. The audio is available here.

In our sacristy, we vest for Mass beneath one word, written in golden letters: Silentium. 


We need the reminder, because we are surrounded every day by voices clamoring for our attention.

We get so used to it that, in the rare moments that silence falls, we can feel restless.

The silence outside exposes other voices inside:

The voices of our own desires…

The echoes of past sins and painful memories…

And the voice of the Accuser, always ready to whisper some cunning lie.

We are tempted to drown them all out with distractions.

But we can’t drown them out forever.

The younger son tried that.

He ran headlong in pursuit of pleasures to numb out the real desires and wounds of his heart—the longing to be loved; to feel his father’s pride and his older brother’s respect—desires that, if he let them come to the surface, he would despair of ever seeing fulfilled.

It worked for him until, one day, he found he had spent everything he had.

With nothing left to distract him, silence fell.

And there, in the mud, he heard at last, not only the voices of his guilt and shame, but of his desperate hunger, still crying out to be filled.

Yet in the silence, we hear … another voice, faintly at first.

A still, small voice, easily lost in the racket that fills our days. 

The voice of Jesus, the Word of the Father, speaks in the silence of the heart.

He calls us by name.

As our hearts stir and come alive, Jesus speaks of the fulfillment of all desire.

Not in the passing distractions of this world, but at home in our Father’s house, where even the least of His servants has more than enough to eat.

Our hearts are pierced with sorrow for our sins, our past unfaithfulness…

But Jesus, with a brother’s kindness, encourages us to repent, to get up and go back to our Father, even here, even now.

The Accuser lashes out with lies, trying to keep us down…

And the voice of Jesus disarms him by speaking the truth of who we are:

The Father’s cherished, beloved son, who was dead, but has come to life again.

To hear the voice of Jesus, the one voice we must hear, above all the others, we repent of the ways we have drowned him out with distractions.

And as we receive Him in Holy Communion, we ask Jesus for the grace to renounce all those distractions, which numb our desires and fill our minds with noise.

Today, just like we do in the sacristy, put on the vestment of silence. 

Like an alb, we put the vestment of silence on first over our heads.

We put on silence of the mind, closing it firmly against every lie, against pointless distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments.

Then it passes over our eyes, closing them to the faults and weaknesses of our brothers and everything that is sinful and disturbing to the soul. 

Then our ears: closing them to all those voices that speak gossip, lies, and uncharitable words.

The vestment of silence passes over the mouth, closing our lips from speaking the least word that causes pain and division.

At last, the vestment of silence settles on our shoulders and covers the heart.

Clothed in the uttermost silence of the heart, we love God whole-heartedly, undividedly, and we begin to love one another as He loves us.

As we put on the vestment of silence today, and every day, renouncing distractions, and daring to be still, we begin to hear the voice of Jesus clearlyand consistently, above all the rest.

Doing good works and avoiding temptations becomes easier.

Our daily work of study and prayer becomes easier and more joyful, too.

We begin to recognize the lies of the Accuser more easily and disarm him more quickly with the truth.

And the voice of Jesus leads us daily back to the Father’s house, where we are greeted with rejoicing and abundant love.

As we receive the Most Holy Eucharist, clothed in the vestment of silence, our hearts recognize in this bread the fulfillment of all desire, all sweetness, all joy.

And on the last day, we who have worn the vestment of silence faithfully in this life will enter the sanctuary of heaven, and raise our voices in harmony with all the saints and angels, who sing the exultant hymn of endless praise, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.  


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