"Then Pilate said to him, 'Don't you hear how many things they testify against you?' But he answered him not one word..." - Matthew 27:12-14
An outspoken friend of mine used to be a loud presence on social media. But she grew to distrust her talky self, so quick with the wise or witty word, so satisfied whenever some 'deep' or 'powerful' post of hers stole the scene. So she quit, went radio silent, disappeared.
Her silence upsets her friends. They understand her cautions, but they deeply mistrust silence—too many bad things disappear into it. Silence is death, a haven for the oppressor. The last thing the suffering world needs is more of it.
She knows what they mean, but it doesn't feel quite so straightforward to her. Not all silence is the same.
There's the silence of ignoring, and the silence of seeing. The silence of indifference, and the silence of awe. The silence of the unmoved, and the silence of those too moved to speak. The silence of giving up, and the silence of gathering oneself for the struggle.
The silence of secrets, and the silence of discretion. The silence of withholding, and the silence of forbearance. The silence that silences, and the silence that makes room. The silence of the dormant conscience, and the silence of prayer.
The silence after showy speeches end, and the silence of the modest who claim little and say less. The silence that evades, and the silence that convicts. The silence of the hollow question, of the illusion of innocence, of Pilate washing his hands. And the sovereign silence of Jesus, vanquishing the powers without a single word.
Truthful Word and Sovereign Silence, teach us to speak and not to speak, for the sake of the world God loves.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.