Tag Archives: silence of God

Ignatius of Antioch



Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, a large early Christian center, was put to death in the third century in the Colosseum where he was devoured by wild animals, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. His death is vividly portrayed in the picture (above) in the church of San Stefano Rotondo in Rome. We celebrate his feast October 17th..

On the way to Rome, Ignatius wrote seven letters to important Christian churches. The letters show him to be a skillful  teacher and writer; he must have been an eloquent preacher.

In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus,  however, you sense his days for words are coming to an end. He’s entering the silence of death where words are not important, Ignatius writes–  faith and “ being faithful to the end,” are what count. “It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the teacher also acts. One teacher ‘spoke, and it was done,’ yet what he did in silence was worthy of the Father. He who has the word of Jesus can also listen to his silence…”

What does Ignatius mean? The Word of God silent? True, in his early years at Nazareth, Jesus is silent. Before his baptism in the Jordan by John he’s  silent, until the voice of the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

Jesus taught during his public ministry, yet many didn’t hear him at all. Finally, when he’s arrested and taken to the cross to die, the evangelists say  Jesus was silent.

Silence is part of facing the mystery of God. Here and now, some things can’t be known or explained. Like terrorism, natural disasters, the suffering of children. Why? God is silent. Again,  Ignatius:

“He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence.”

A Rejected Prophet

Usually celebrities are welcomed to their hometowns by proud family members and neighbors,  but when Jesus returns to his native place, a rising star in Galilee, he’s driven out of the synagogue and almost killed by the people of Nazareth. He claims to be anointed by the Spirit of God and he’s been acclaimed elsewhere, but they see him only as the son of Joseph, the carpenter, and reject him. (Luke 4,21-30)

They stay unconvinced, it seems, because some of his family appear later at Capernaum, the base for most of his ministry, and want to take him home because he’s out of his mind,they say.

Why are they against his extraordinary claim? Is it because they know him too well? Or really, not enough? They’ve watched him grow; he’s worked on their homes and in their fields. He built some of the tables they’ve used for their meals. They know his father, his mother, his relatives. An unassuming young man whom they’ve known since infancy.

Where does he get all this?

We have to be careful that, like them, we get used to Jesus Christ, whom we may have known from our infancy. They took him for granted. His silence through the years made them blind to his power and they did not believe in him.

We know his silence too in faith and sacraments. He may act somewhere else, we may think, but not in us. We can mistake his silence for powerlessness too.

Give us faith in you, Lord.

(4th Sunday of the Year)