The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2019 – Cycle C
Sirach 27:4-7; Psalm 92; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45.
Because words reveal.
Words reveal intention, attitudes and desires of the mind and heart.
Did you believe the words this week, the testimony, of Michael Cohen?
What of Justin Smollett? Whom did you believe, Christine Ford or Brett Kavanaugh?
Do you believe the words of Pope Francis in regard to addressing the sexual abuse crisis in the Church? What do their words reveal to you?
With the resurgence of racism and anti – Semitism, do you believe “hate speech” has rights? …even if it leads to violence against people?
Words can console or incite; for good or evil. Words can hurt and cut deep into the heart. Sometimes intentionally or thoughtlessly. Words can convey truth or be used to deceive. They can heal and give voice to forgiveness. Words can be used as a weapon. Words can be empty chatter and noise or wisdom and insight.
In a world in which we are drowning in words, upon words, upon words from ubiquitous screens to emails, texts, social media platforms and the talking heads on the news media, has the value of words been diminished? …cheapened? …a source of mistrust? There was a time not so long ago when we used to take people at their word. Words mattered because they carried the weight a person’s integrity. We don’t feel that way anymore. The worst thing I have ever been called is a liar. Have you? Such an accusation attacks a person’s, in this case, my integrity.
Yet what else do we have to rely on but words? Words matter because words reveal. Consider that the Sacrament of Marriage is enacted by the pronouncement of words; a solemn vow between two people. Consider the healing power of the words that no counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can ever say, “I absolve you from your sins”.
The present situation in which we find ourselves has caused many of us to become cynical. This cynicism has infected society like a disease. It is not that we cannot take people at their word but we have created an atmosphere in which we don’t trust each other. We read between the lines. We often presume the worst of possible meanings rather than take a person at their word.
Whose words do you believe? And why are these person’s words trusted by you as compared to others?
The teachings of Ben Sirach today all deal with the act of speaking – the use of words. Sirach teaches us that our speech, our words, reveal our faults, our weaknesses – our sins(?). That alone may be reason to speak less.
For those who are experiencing the test of life’s sufferings and difficulties; Sirach teaches the resolve of such people is revealed in their conversation. What are you and I made of when life isn’t convenient? What values uphold us in the difficult, the sad and mournful times of life? Our words lay bare our truth.
Consider all the sufferings experienced by Job: the loss of his children in a terrible house accident, the theft of his flocks and camels, and physical disease, severe boils and sores over his body. Now compare between the responses of Job and his wife. “Then Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still holding to your innocence. Curse God and die.” But Job said to her, “We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!” [See Job 1:21ff and 2:9-10] Sirach teaches that our speech betrays our thinking and attitudes.
What are our attitudes? What arises from within us? Compassion? …bigotry? …hope or judgement of others which flowers in gossip and slander? Do we have a negative or positive attitude toward life, people and God? Do our words express revenge, inquisitiveness, imposed self-ignorance, hatred or understanding?
Sirach finally cautions us that before we praise a person, wait and listen to them speak first. Words matter. Words reveal. Thus Archbishop St. John Chysostomos taught, “Let us always guard our tongue; not that it should always be silent, but that it should speak at the proper time.”
As we approach the season of Lent, insightful is the teaching of the desert fathers in response to the question, “How can I be saved?” “How can you be saved? “If you are hungry, eat; if you are thirsty, drink; only do not speak evil of anyone, and you will be saved.”
What about your and my words? What do they reveal about us?