Saturday, August 1, 2009

Speak or Shut Up Part I


Peter stood by the entrance to the cave and looked out over Antioch and the Orontes River. It had been given to the newly formed church in Antioch by the apostle Luke. The sun was setting, casting a golden glow over the landscape. A fresh Mediterranean Breeze rustled the olive trees outside the cave bringing relief from the muggy heat of the day. Peter sipped silently from his cup of wine and took a deep sigh.

Paul, glanced at Peter, dipped his bread into a bowl of olive oil. He broke off a piece of dried salted fish and sandwiched it between two small pieces of bread and took a bite. He savored the oil, bread and fish in silence. It was the end of a long and contentious day. It was a day where he had rebuked Peter, the leader of the apostles for hypocrisy. Peter in his wisdom after a few moments of anger, had accepted the rebuke. Their friendship, which had begun several years earlier, soon after the conversion of Paul, had now grown to an abiding trust and respect.

Peter turned and said softly, "Paul, I must thank you again for your truthful statements today. I was wrong and you didn't remain silent."

Paul took a sip of wine and replied, "Simon Peter, to do otherwise and remain silent would have been a sin."

Peter smiled and nodded. "So much like the master. Oh, how I miss my Lord."

Peter turned and again took in the fading light of the day.

After a few moments of silence Paul said, "Peter, you are quieter than usual tonight. Are you alright? Are you feeling ill?"

Peter turned and faced Paul and sat down on a ledge. He rolled his cup in his hands and replied, "No Paul, I'm quite well. I was just thinking about our Lord. He knew when to be silent and when to speak. I'm still learning that lesson.

"Yes?" Paul said lifting an amused eyebrow.

"Paul, After the resurrection, Jesus told us what happened at his trial. He remained silent when accused of wrongdoing. John reminded me this afternoon how Jesus stood silent before all those bringing false witness against him. He just remained silent."

"Like a lamb being led to the slaughter." Paul broke in.

"Yes, and before Herod and Pilate, the same thing. And before the chief priests and elders, he made no answer."

Paul nodded and replied, "So much love and patience."

Peter looked at him quizzically.

Paul continued, "Peter, I learned from my journey in the wilderness and subsequently from Barnabas, that in our Lord's trial, he showed us his strength and sense of purpose through his silence."

Peter snorted and began to chuckle. "Oh how true Paul. It is a lesson I'm ever having to learn. I'm always complaining about something or the other. All of us have complained about bad luck. We shout for everyone to hear how bad things are for us. Like this afternoon when you confronted me. I tried to explain my actions and excuse them just to get an approval or acceptance from everyone. How so unlike our Lord, Paul. He said nothing when accused of wrong doing for which he was innocent. "

"How true." replied Paul sitting up and taking another sip of wine. He rose and walked over to Peter and sat down next to him.

"Cephas," he said softly, "We all struggle with this. I know I do. But we must learn from Jesus. Life is what it is. Bad things happen to us. We are often hard pressed, burdened with trials. Yet, with his power, we must accept our duties and worries without complaining. When we have personal problem, we must deal with them squarely and not dump them on someone else. We must face up to them and seek resolution either with God alone or with one another, like you did this afternoon after our confrontation. That's when Jesus gets the glory."

Peter put his arm across Paul's shoulder and said, "You're so right Paul. You know how I must constantly deal with my pride. I'm always the first to bellow something when I should have kept silent. I must constantly rely on my Lord's presence to keep me silent when I'm slandered or when false rumors are told about me. Remember what the prophet Isaiah said? He said "By waiting and being calm you shall be saved." And then he added, "Your strength lies in quietness and trust."

Paul nodded, "So true Peter. Our strength of mind through the power of the Holy Spirit is grounded in silence and in hope."
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I hope you enjoy my little journey into what might have been. I like to imagine scenes like this. It makes the Bible come alive for me. This little lesson of those times when silence is the best path to take. So when we are accused of wrong doing, determine if the accusations are correct or not and then take appropriate action. Sometimes that action is to say nothing. In my next post, I'll expand this thought on when to speak up. And, oh, by the way, my apologies to Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvahal editor of the Palabra magazine and priest of Opus Dei. I drawing my scenario from one of his meditations. The story is mine, but the basic outline come from his thoughts.

Until next time remember...Silence is often golden.

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