When Silence is not Golden

Luke 14: 1-6
Rom 9: 1-5 / Ps 147

Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a well would not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?
(Luke 14:5)

Woe to those who do not listen,
But worse for those who do not speak
To declare what Christ has spoken:
God’s kingdom that we all must seek.

On one occasion Jesus was invited to the house of one of the leading Pharisees to dine on the Sabbath. The people there were watching Him closely. Just then, in front of Him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took the sick man and healed him, and then sent him away. Then He said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?’ But they were unable to answer His question. (Luke 14: 1-6)


What would a man who was afflicted with edema (swelling of the body due to retention of fluids) be doing in the house of a leading Pharisee? He was a most unlikely guest, since the religious elders were very particular about associating with sick people whom they considered sinful, if not “unclean”. Unless he was intentionally invited there for a malicious purpose. They seated him right in front of Jesus so that He would not fail to see him, and then they watched Him closely to see if He would violate the Sabbath by healing the sick man.

Jesus disregarded the laws of the Sabbath when He saw a need to be compassionate. Quite the opposite with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They showed how cold and heartless they were by using a sick man to entrap Jesus. While Jesus was honoring the Sabbath by healing a sick man, the Pharisees and scribes were in fact dishonouring it by plotting their evil scheme. They invited Jesus to dine with them not because they had wanted to listen to His wisdom, but so that they could bring charges against Him if He violated their Sabbath law. But when our Lord asked them if it was lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not, they chose not to answer, and their silence only betrayed their cowardice and the falsehood of their beliefs.

Silence is golden when we hold our tongue for the sake of peace, or when we give a matter of grave concern more time to ponder on before we speak. It was a mark of Solomon’s wisdom when he wrote, “He who guards his mouth protects his life; to open wide one’s lips brings downfall” (Prov.13:3). Silence is certainly golden when we choose to refrain from indulging in gossip, backbiting, lying or slander.

The silence of the Pharisees and scribes however, can never be considered golden, but is in fact downright ‘yellow’. They were afraid to speak up because they knew their plot was shot, and their position on the Sabbath law weak and indefensible against the miracle of God’s mercy.

We can be like the Pharisees and scribes if we choose to be silent in the midst of cruelty and injustice, or immorality and corruption. Silence is cowardice when we fail to speak up for the truth, or do not admit our mistake, or refuse to confess our sins in the sacrament of Penance. And our silence will be our eternal regret if we do not speak boldly for Jesus and His Gospel, because as He said, “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My heavenly Father. But whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father” (Mt.10:32-33).

Grant us, Father God, the grace of prudence to know when to speak, and when to hold our peace. And when the opportunity arises, grant us the boldness to speak for what is right, to condemn what is wrong, and to declare ourselves for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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