Please Don’t Tell Anyone

by | Aug 7, 2020 | Formation, Reflections, Vincentian Family | 3 comments

We have all heard “please don’t tell” at one time or another.

  • Sometimes from a friend who needs to talk.
  • Sometimes from a person who needs to feel important by telling you.
  • Sometimes from a person who really wants you to tell someone else, possibly to cause harm to another.

These are just a few reasons behind these words.

Why did Jesus say tell no one?

As I listened to the Gospel on this feast of the Transfiguration I wondered why. Why did Jesus tell them not to tell anyone? Was it one of the reasons I just mentioned?

Maybe it was none of the above.

  • Just maybe it was because he knew they would get it wrong.
  • Maybe they would jump to conclusions about him and the future.
  • Maybe he knew they did not understand the full story.

Maybe he knew that in their amazement they would go from A to Z. They skipped to the last chapter of mystery filling in the blanks. After all, when he did tell them he must suffer and die they recoiled. They said, “say it isn’t so.”

One thing seems certain. They were blown away by the experience and probably could not wait to tell everyone the amazing thing they had experienced. Did they honor his command?

St. Catherine Labouré’s secret

I never thought about the transfiguration in the light of Mary’s apparition to St. Catherine Labouré.

As a young priest, I lived with Fr. Joseph Dirvin CM, Catherine’s biographer. He wrote,

“Things were crystal clear to the plain mind of the country girl from Burgundy: Our Lady had appeared to her, had ordered something to be done. All that remained was to do it; it was as simple as that.”

“It was certainly not as simple as that to Father Aladel. Our Lady had not appeared to him. All his knowledge of this wondrous thing, this Medal, was second-hand, and he had his knowledge from a simple, illiterate novice.”

So he took the cautious route. He wasn’t sure so he asked her not to tell anyone.

Lessons to be learned

What is the lesson we can learn from Jesus’ command?

So often we only have half the story. We don’t know the back story of the persons we encounter. We only focus on the part of their story we know.

  • Sometimes we judge people not realizing the suffering they have been through. We might marvel if we knew the whole story.
  • Sometimes we think how much we would like to live forever in a given moment but we don’t know the entire story yet.
  • Sometimes we fill in the gaps, jump to conclusions.

What is the lesson we can learn from the story of St. Catherine?

Respect for the mystery she was part of. Could it be that if she had spoken, much of the focus on Mary’s medal might be drawn away to her? By not speaking of her role people focused on the medal and the message.

Sometimes we need to respect the mystery of the moment trusting in God.

Questioning our secrets

  • When have I spoken of something I did not understand?
  • When have I revealed something that made me feel important?


  1. Larry Huber

    Years ago, at a yard sale, I picked up a paperback book which was a compilation of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” I stumbled onto it again a few days ago and marveled at what a great story teller he was and how the backstory added a whole new dimension to what you already knew. I like your observation that they probably would have jumped from A to Z and skipped all the transitions that had to happen in between. A lot of pre-judging rallies around that concept: “I know how that story ends because I know A.” Meanwhile, the meat of the story is at H, L and R and they never hear it or appreciate it.

    As fate (Divine Providence?) would have it, we’re using that Gospel for our Vincentian Reflection for Saturday’s Board Meeting. Sr Kieran Kneaves, who prepared the reflections, omitted that ending of the Gospel “tell no one.” Her focus was on listening (“this is my beloved Son; listen to him”) and she used two excerpts from Fr Bob Maloney’s books about listening. Maloney’s insights are significant so no objection there.

    But your “don’t tell” and the other Gospel (Mt 14: 22-33) dismissing the crowds really got me thinking about the crowd reaction to things. I guess it’s obvious that the Gospels weren’t written in real-time so they had plenty of hindsight to help understand events or words spoken when Jesus was physically in their presence. Still, they remembered that. They remembered what he told them even though it made little or no sense. They remembered how he managed crowds, how he engineered miracles so that they would have greater impact on the disciples even if they might have been lost on the crowds who were around at the time.

    Prior to your insights about that Gospel, I had often spent time reflecting on how “Peter, James and his brother John” (that’s an odd construction also) knew that it was Moses and Elijah transfigured with Jesus. In that circumstance, they had immediate knowledge (not hindsight) since Peter wanted to build three tents in real-time. Peter, as you pointed out, was jumping to the end-game without really knowing what the end-game might be. That might be why Peter had to deny him (and be reconciled later) – to learn that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

    I love this stuff. So much more than a simple rendering of the Gospel. Fr Jack Kane would be proud that we’re “listening” to the Gospel and not just “reading” it.

    Lessons for us all.

  2. Ross

    This is far-fetched, though not unrelated to Jesus knowing that they did not understand the full story. So, let me hazard a guess and say that the instruction not to tell could indicate Jesus’ desire to spare them from embarrassment. For they might end up showing their ignorance (Peter did not know what he was saying, in Mk and Lk). Or worse, they might be shown up as hypocrites (they say but do not do).


    Sometimes we ask people not to let others know about something because of fear of being persecuted, or hated by others. After all, God sees all that is done in secret and rewards accordingly. To God be all the glory and honour.

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