We Walk In the Shadows of Silence

Fr. Joe Agostino, CM, Coordinator of the Vincentian Family Office, led the Good Friday Services at the Motherhouse of the Eastern Province in Philadelphia. He reflected on standing before the Cross in silence and discomfort – then and now.

Good Friday 2020 Homily

In Psalm 115 (verse 17): It is not the dead who praise the Lord, nor those who go down into the silence.

In the Bible, silence is the shadow of death and today we walk in the shadows of silence.

A dying person has little to say. If you ever accompanied someone at that point in their life’s journey, you know they mostly watch and wait.

In Isaiah we read of the Suffering Servant: though he was harshly treated, he opened not his mouth

And in the Gospel of John, as well as the other Passion narratives, we hear how Jesus slowly slips into silence.

This afternoon, this silence seems even more noxious:

  • Silence from the refugee camps in Lebanon and around the globe – already overcrowded and without the necessities of life, also now with no possibility for social distancing….
  • Silence from Somalia, already crippled by a civil war now intensified by the corona crisis, which is just beginning there…..
  • Silence from India where medical rationing has begun based on caste and religion and not need……
  • Silence from Sri Lanka where people in the countryside are dying of a starvation worsened by government policies……
  • Silence from Nicaragua where the rulers refuse to even admit that a pandemic exists….
  • Silence from Uganda where families are reduced to eating grass for their survival….

And silence right around us:

  • prisoners, already inhumanely treated, are now subject to even greater negligence
  • the urban poor, and especially the African American community, dying at a higher percentage rate than the rest of the population
  • health care providers whose personal risk is compounded if they dare to speak out about their lack of critical supplies


As contradictory as it may sound, with all the noise that surrounds us on TV and online, we are engulfed in a profound silence – and with it the disquiet that comes from seeing death in one of its ugliest forms.

To accept this silence is to allow the shadow of death to fall upon us. It is to say YES! to the culture of death and not the culture of life. We Christians long to hear the voice which will shatter the silence forever, the voice that will cry out for justice, and offer to the world a song of hope, a melody of joy.

Today – now in this Chapel – we stand before the Cross in silence and discomfort.

We do as Jesus did that first Good Friday: we remain silent. And we also wonder when will that silence will be shattered? But it will not be today.

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