January 22: Silence (3 A)

“He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Matthew 4:12-23.


In today’s gospel, Matthew tells us of Jesus calling his new recruits – Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

While Jesus was a carpenter by trade, with distinct contrast, he selected fishermen to be his closest collaborators. Were any of these men suited for this work of preaching and healing?

One thing we know, that after all of Jesus’s many reasonable efforts of teaching, healing, and preaching among his people — together with his disciples they journeyed to Jerusalem to face Good Friday and its aftermath. The Apostles, too, would suffer their deaths, years later, as martyrs for the faith.

In fact, we — all of us, Easter people, living in a Good Friday world. With painful challenges in which only Christ himself can accompany us.

So then, are we ready to listen to and accept the call of Jesus Christ in our own lives? How prepared are we to forward his message of faith, hope, and love in season and out of season? Even at the expense of our own life?

This is the challenge that he addressed to his disciples and followers – then, and in every generation since.

For the past many years, I’ve been teaching about media and religion at Saint Mary’s College. So I’ll let you in on a not so great secret, I’ve been counting the days to see Martin Scorsese’s new film “Silence,” the movie adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about 17th century Japan, and the story of two young Portuguese Jesuit priests.


The narrative is set as Rodrigues and Garrpe travel secretly to Japan, during the height of the torture and persecutions of Christians. They seek information about Father Ferreira, their teacher, and mentor, who has gone missing. They minister to underground Catholics who had been deprived of the Sacraments, and their faith.

From his earliest films such a “Mean Streets” to “Bringing Out the Dead,” Scorsese struggles with the notion of how good people who do good things for useful purposes are tested with crises of faith.

Many of Scorsese’s characters are wounded “guardian angels” needing salvation in their own right. Such is the struggle of Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield.

Endo, the author of the novel, and Scorsese in his screenplay, tell us:

“Christ did not die for the good and the beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and the beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and the corrupt.”

Well, this homily is not a film review. However, I recommend the film – it is a problematic film and a long film of 2 hours and 41 minutes. It is not an “entertaining film,” and for some, the ending or conclusion may be too understated. But it is an outstanding film, and a movie, in my opinion, of “religious art.”

Here are two points that I want to make, and they come from Scorsese himself.

First, in a vastly secularized world, the matter of religion is more important than ever. And, of course, the use of violence in the name of religion was and remains a terrible abuse of personal rights. Whether 17th century Japan or with the suppression and persecution of Christians that continues today.

Also, films like “Silence,” are a way to preserve our understanding of our own religious culture with its art, history, music, colorful liturgy, and the very spiritual intensity of people. This is something not to be dismissed or whitewashed.

To my mind, the Catholic faith, in contrast to other world religions, with its statues, Gregorian chant, and feast days, has sensed the need for media/mediation between God and his people in these various forms. Consequently, we have a body of world culture in the great artists and musicians that have given us tools for our prayer and worship before God.

Let me conclude this homily with a few words about our second reading.

A few minutes ago, we listened to the words of Saint Paul in which we are reminded that there should be no divisions among us. So there is the kind of solidarity among Christians that can help forward our collective efforts.

During this week of Christian Unity, on Wednesday, the feast day of the Conversion of Paul honors this great saint’s call to evangelization.

Pope Francis will join Christians of various faith traditions at a prayer service in Saint Paul’s Basilica Outside the walls of Rome. This is a reminder that our good works of service to one another, the poor and those in need, know no particular religious group or denomination.

In these goods works, there must not be division among us. Instead, we work together to advance the faith, hope, and love of Jesus Christ for his people and for the world.

So are we ready to forward the work of Christ? Each generation of Christians faced this difficult and sometimes painful task of mercy, forgiveness, and tenderness in a conflicted world. In this effort, like Pope Francis, we can discover the “joy of the gospel” itself.


Prayer for Christian Unity

Lord Jesus Christ, you call us together in faith and love. Breath again the new life of your Holy Spirit among us that we may hear your holy Word, pray in your name, seek unity among Christians, and live more fully the faith we profess. All glory and honor be yours with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen. 

— from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

Saint Bonaventure, Concord, CA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s