The poor dupes who had hoped to curry the favor of the Elders by offering to act as witnesses against Christ, no doubt received naught for their pains but the contempt of their leaders. They had botched the job in relating that they personally had heard Christ say “He would destroy the temple and in three days rebuild it.” Scripture records the court session as follows: “For while many bore false witness against Him, their evidence did not agree.” (Mk. 14:56) The charge that was so nebulous, and the witnesses so damaging to the cause for which the Sanhedrin had been assembled that Caiphas decided to retrieve what he could from the farce. He stood up, and said to our Lord: “Dost thou make no answer to the things these men prefer against thee? But he kept silence and made no answer.” (Mt. 14: 60, 61)
There is a silence which is often more eloquent than words, and means more than any words, and speaks volumes to the heart. Such, for example, is the silence when the heart is too full for utterance and the organs of speech are choked by the overwhelming surge of emotions. Such also is the silence of the wise man challenged to speak by those he feels unworthy of his words. The man who can stand and listen to ignorance, venomous bigotry, or personal hurt or insult addressed to him in angry, insolent, offensive spirit, and offers no reply, exerts a far greater power over the mind of his assailant than he could by words, however forceful. Such was the silence Christ now maintained in the house of the High Priest, Caiphas.
When one’s life and works are above reproach, these are the best defense against those who would do us harm. The accusations against Christ were false and frivolous and His silence was a sufficient and powerful reply. It is reported of Titus Vespasian that when anyone spoke ill of him he was wont to say he was above false reports: and if they were true, he had more the reason to be angry with himself than with the person who started the story.
When we bear wrongs patiently, we benefit not ourselves only but also our fellow man; we prevent him from going to greater lengths, and make it easier to bring him to a sense of his wrongdoing. Christ’s silence was magnificent. He showed us a marvelous example of restraint under the most trying circumstances. How solemnly His silence rebukes the chatter of the false witnesses before the Elders of the Sanhedrin. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing the blows. Christ’s silence broke the spirit of his accusers.
Christ during his life on earth gave a number of examples of silence. For instance he was silent in the presence of the Canaanite woman. Scripture says “He answered her not a word” (Mt. 15: 23). He was silent when the accusers threw at his feet the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8: 4), but his most glorious silence was when He Himself was accused falsely.
How do you act when others accuse you wrongly? Are you oversensitive about your honor? St. Francis de Sales tells us that only when grave and disgraceful crimes are imputed to us, such as we cannot allow ourselves to be charged with, should we take steps to clear ourselves. Ask our dear Lord to give you the courage to be silent like He was, when accused unjustly.
See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.
*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle