Many moons ago I used to sit in on several self-help groups which met on our premises. And a constant refrain of newcomers seeking help was: “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.” Now it’s certainly the case that some people are so affected by others’ opinions that they are afraid to change. They are stuck in, what someone has called, the “paralysis of analysis,” examining their every move, trying to figure out what people might say about them. It would be so much better if they would just listen to their own hearts instead.
The high priests, scribes, and elders of Israel seemed to suffer from this same kind of fear. They are afraid to answer Our Lord’s questions because they’re uncertain of how the people around them will react. If they answer one way, Jesus will criticize them. And if they answer another way, the people will criticize them. And so they sat on the fence. We know what they really think, because they eventually bring Jesus to trial on trumped-up charges. But instead of confronting Our Lord, and saying what they think, they won’t even take a position. They’re content simply to wait for another opportunity to trip him up. And yet if they had just said what they were thinking, things might have turned out so much differently.
Unlike these religious leaders, we have accepted Our Lord’s divinity. We believe him to be truly God and truly Man. But we may still be tempted to act as the Jewish leaders did and submit to the ‘court of public opinion’. When someone challenges you on your faith, how do you react? Do you state your position calmly and confidently? Or do you agonize over how that person will react, and end up saying nothing? Even with the best of intentions, we can sometimes let fear get the better of us, especially when we’re faced with someone who passionately disagrees with us.
As our society continues to turn its back on God, it’s more than likely that we will all come across someone who will question our belief in Christ and our witness to his name. Our Lord knew this would happen and he encouraged us not to worry too much about what to say or how to say it. Having first grounded ourselves in our faith we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us. Our logic may not convince people, but the light of Christ’s truth and love shining through us just might. I forget who said: ‘speak the truth with charity and simplicity, and you may just turn an enemy into a friend’.