Year B, Twenty Fifth Sunday Ordinary

Silence, the Answer to Argument

September 24, 2000


Ronald D. Curley

TEXT: The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 9:30-37

It was the purpose of Jesus to teach his disciples, those he had called to the specific vocation of apostleship. These were to be sent with a commission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the nations. They were to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.

So, Jesus wanted to focus upon the formation of his chosen ones and not only the crowd that came to him so often. There was a special message for the disciples to hear.

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it;

31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

This was a message that was new for them. The language tends to say that he was continually teaching his disciples this message with a sense of urgency. St. Mark's Gospel tends to speak with urgency and immediacy.

We would all agree that the message of the impending death of someone beloved was an urgent message. "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him;" Yes, this is an urgent message. But, the addendum to this message is even more urgent and surprising - "and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

They did not seem to be prepared for this part any more than the first part of the teaching.


32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.

Now, why were they afraid to ask him?

Something had occurred in their ranks. Perfect Love, we will remember, casts out all fear. When we are in a good relationship with someone, there is an open-ness between the people in a good relationship. When there is something that is bothering us, there tends to be an avoidance between people.

In this case, perhaps, the cause of their fear of asking Jesus was related to their silence about other things.

But, Jesus, the seeker of all hearts, understands and knows the problem. He goes directly to it and confronts the issue squarely and makes them come to the place of exposure and repentance, as we all should.

33 And they came to Caperna-um; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?"

34 But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.

They were silent when he asked them the perfect question for the moment. "What were you discussing on the way?"

(they were silent)

They had been arguing, now, they were silent when Jesus broke the silence with the question.

What had happened? -- But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.

Beloved, the answer here to argumentation is silence, and a clear heart and mind in listening to the Voice, the One Voice of God in Christ Jesus.

St. Benedict has a lot to say about silence. Silence is right up there in importance with Obedience and humility. These three - obedience, humility and silence are tied together in a triad. He says -

"Let us do what the Prophet saith: "I said, I will take heed of my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I have set a guard to my mouth, I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things" (Ps 38[39]:2-3). Here the prophet showeth that, if at times we ought to refrain from useful speech for the sake of silence, how much more ought we to abstain from evil words on account of the punishment due to sin." (RB-VI)

Benedict also says, "Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse, for it is written: "In much talk thou shalt not escape sin" (Prov 10:19). And elsewhere: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov 18:21). For it belongeth to the master to speak and to teach; it becometh the disciple to be silent and to listen. If, therefore, anything must be asked of the Superior, let it be asked with all humility and respectful submission. But coarse jests, and idle words or speech provoking laughter, we condemn everywhere to eternal exclusion; and for such speech we do not permit the disciple to open his lips."

Today, the secular world has much trouble with this approach. We thing if something is there in our vocabulary, it ought to be said at some point in our lives! Forget silence!

This is an error, beloved.

Silence is the answer to argumentation, because silence is better than arguing. It turns wrath away and causes greater good, because there is no retaliation.

This is not to say that sin and evil are not to be confronted. However, if it is an issue (as Jesus focused upon) of who is the greater among us, then, silence is better than arguing.

There is the Servant of servants speaking.

35 And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

If we want to be great in God's kingdom it is different than being great in the world's kingdom. Greatness comes from personal greed and accomplishment so often in the world. No so with Jesus. Greatness comes from obedience, silence and humility, the triad that Benedict discovered in the Gospel.

Those in first place in God's yes are those who like Jesus Christ our Lord who became Man and was made low, coming as a Child in the manger in Bethlehem of Judea.

Yes, Lord of Glory became the Servant of all. Now, his calling for all is that we become servants of one another, not arguing, but practicing the grace of silence.

The point is emphasized by the child in their midst.

36 And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them,

37 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

This is so far a field from the ways in which men and women think today.

We seek greatness.

We seek those with notoriety.

Jesus seeks the child, and puts him in the midst of the disciples (and us), taking the child in his arms and saying -- "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

Stoop down. Come down to where the children are, beloved. Seek there the ways of God in the Name of Jesus. For when you receive the child in Jesus' Name - you are accepting Jesus' words. And, when you and I accept Jesus' words, we are receiving the One who sent him, God the Father and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

We all do well to listen to these words.

How easily we argue, when we ought to be silent.

We sense more, do we not, the need to say less and pray more? For with the abundance of words there is the greater potential for offending or being less than loving in God alone toward our neighbor.

Who is the greatest?

Cold orthodoxy with harsh words, cutting words without the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is less than appealing. Love in silent appreciation is better than cold orthodoxy, though it is good to be orthodox.

Are not the servants the ones God has called great in the kingdom?

Where God dwells within, much like the silence of the desert nights (a hermitage within us) and where Jesus sees that he will soon be praying in Gethsemane while those in process of becoming saints will sleep dreaming their dreams of who will be the greatest when those asleep should pray, worn out by their constant activities and argumentation...

Jesus we remember, our Lord and our Savior prayed much as the Servant of servants...and though he was dead, he arose and lives, now seated at the Father's Right Hand...

Now, he remains with us, and within us, in the Silent Eucharist that speaks more than many words... adoration.

Silence is the answer to argument.

Was not our Lady silent during these years?

Deus et Sanctissima.

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