Last weekend, I wrote about silence in our church, and the need to respect the Eucharist and others who are praying and listening to God. This weekend I would like to write about another silence. The silence of God when we pray.
I am not much of a moviegoer; however I recently went to see the movie SILENCE, directed by Martin Scorsese. This movie is based on a book written by a well-known Japanese Christian author, Endo Shusaku. It is the story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan in the 1600’s, and the hidden Christians that they encountered. If you get a chance, I heartily recommend this film. It gives a good insight into the torture and persecutions that the Christians endured. For more than 250 years, Christianity and all contact from the outside world was outlawed in Japan. The Christians that remained were forced to practice their faith underground; if they were discovered they were often tortured, even martyred. The film portrays the life of these heroic Christians, and the lives of the missionaries sent to them.
The “silence” that this film refers to is the silence from God when we pray to Him and seem to hear nothing. Those who were being tortured for their faith prayed, and it seems that God wasn’t listening. Time and again in the history of Christianity in Japan, believers were told that if they just renounced their faith, by trampling on a cross (called a fumie) they would be freed, escaping the horrendous torture awaiting them. Why did it seem that God was not there for them? Wouldn’t God help them in their moment of most need? One of the missionaries continues to see the haunting face of Jesus over and over again, the face from a picture hanging in the seminary where he studied. It is a face he loves and serves; but the face never speaks. It remains silent when the priest is chained to a tree to watch the Christians die, silent when he asks for guidance on whether to commit the trampling on a cross (fumie) to set them free, and silent when he prays in his cell at night.
Although the movie ends in seeming ambiguity, the author’s intent was to confirm that God is not silent; He does speak to us, just not always in the ways that we would expect.
In our own lives, as well, there are times when we wonder if God is really there. Is He listening to me? Doesn’t he know the troubles in my life? I try to do everything for God, where is he? Sometimes our image of Jesus is one of majesty and power; the one who can do anything and everything. As we can learn from the movie, Jesus is also the one who suffered for us and is suffering with us. Jesus al- lows our weaknesses. Jesus, too, was weak and powerless. Often times, the answer from God is there, we just don’t hear it or don’t acknowledge it. Great saints, such as St. Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa), asked God why He seemed to remain silent. Sometimes the deepest answers and love come in moments of silence. All we need to do is listen with an open heart.