What Do Our Words Say About Us?

February 27, 2022
What Do Our Words Say About Us?

Chapter Talk – 8th Sunday of the Year – February 27, 2022, cycle-C

The first reading from Sirach for today’s liturgy says: “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind” (24:6). Our speech, our words are revelatory.  Do not our words show the care of heart and soul that they have had?  Our words reveal how silent or quiet we are inside.  Interior silence brings wisdom, compassion, mercy, even fruitfulness to our words.  Behind the words we utter we get a sense of ourselves, our true selves.  And this self is in process, always growing, a self that is always being converted to becoming more Christ-like in demeanor and in action.

Perhaps one of the main ways our words or non-verbal reactions betray us is in the gospel for this Sunday: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? (Lk 6:41)”  We are all quick to fall into the Pharisaic judgmental posture where mercy is far away, where we are the one who is right, and the other is wrong, or the other is somehow less than us.  We are above because we know better.  Then there are those times when we have a driving ‘need’ to teach my sister or brother with some information that we presume they do not know, and, of course, we know!  Or, what about jealousy and comparisons that appear in the heart?  Let us be more conscious of these interior movements towards one another whether expressed or not.  This is where conversion begins.  This is where in these simple ways that love grows, that we indeed take on the mind and heart of Christ.  It is where, if converted, our words become life-giving, one to another.

Right now, we are living in a polarized country and a polarized world.  However, notice how we polarize in our relationships.  Contemplative life is to be a beacon of hope, a beacon of unconditional love, a beacon where humility and truth invite us to step back when we become fixated on our neighbor’s ‘splinter’.  We are to step back into our own inner life and behold our ‘beams’.  Keep in mind that ‘splinters’ become ‘beams’ in the inner life when they are not faced or acknowledged.  When our energy and attention towards our sister intensifies, we get fixated on her ‘splinter’.  Neglecting our own inner state polarizes our relations.

The English Orthodox Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, wrote a profound essay titled The Power of Speech.  In this essay he says: “Language in Judaism, is the basis of creation, revelation, and the moral life.  It is the air we breathe as social beings.”  He continues by accenting the sacredness of words.   He says: “through words, words that communicate, words that bind,” that these words “honour the Divine Other and the human other.  Lashon hara, ‘evil speech,’ by poisoning language, destroys the very basis of the Judaic vision.  When we speak disparagingly of others, we diminish them, we diminish ourselves, and we damage the very ecology of freedom.” 

In our Christian faith, Christ is the Word made flesh, he embodies the full reality and life of God.  Thus, the words he utters are holy…they are revelatory of the Divine orientation we are to live into.  Here in this gospel Jesus’ words to us are strong especially when he adds the word “hypocrite” to this gospel teaching.  This word in this gospel context is not putting us down.  Rather, it is calling us to wake up, to look inside at how often we see the weaknesses of a sister, how often we see her ‘splinter’, and then use words, either said out loud or said inside the heart, words that put her down.  Let us be attentive to our words; and when they are not building up the other let us pray, let us step back into the silent depths, and beg for a change of heart. Amen.

 Sr. Kathy Devico, AbbessChapter Talk – 8th Sunday of the Year – February 27, 2022, cycle-C

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