Silence is not Always Golden

Inasmuch as the king in today's Gospel passage ordered his servants to bring in whomever they found on the main road, how could he expect that everyone would be wearing a suitable garment? Why does he react so strongly against the man who is found poorly clad? If he didn't want people who were not dressed appropriately, he should not have simply pulled them in off the road.

However, I believe that the reason for the king's harsh treatment of this man has very little to do with what he was wearing. We find a clue in verse twelve: But he was reduced to silence (Matthew 22:12b). The king had asked him for an explanation. He failed to offer it. His response was a breach of the social and cultural norms for this situation. By refusing to answer, the man dishonors or shames the king. In a society which is driven by the twin concepts of avoiding shame and protecting one's honor, this was simply unacceptable. All he had to do was to offer the king an apology, an explanation, a way to save face. The king has already been shamed by the refusal of his invited guests to come at the appointed time. He has also committed social suicide by inviting people below his ordinary station into the wedding banquet. The inappropriately dressed man simply amplified that shame by refusing to answer.

Some see the king as a God figure. Indeed the wedding banquet and the details with which the Gospel invests that meal seem to mirror the kind of rejection which Jesus met from the Jewish elders. When we look at the failure to respond to the king's question from that perspective, we begin to see that failing to respond to God is not at all advisable. Contrition for sin, words of praise or thanks or adoration would be far better than silence. While our voices might be quiet, the words of the heart are still necessary.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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