Sunday Mass: Words Reveal

March 04th
During a job interview, an interviewer is restricted by law from asking candidates certain questions. Candidates, for example, cannot be asked about their national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, citizenship, or marital status.
Indirect questions designed to gain restricted information are also prohibited. An interviewer cannot ask a person when he or she graduated from high school in order to get some idea of that person's age.
However, there is a way that interviewers can learn a great deal about the person sitting before them. They are permitted to ask, "Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?"
Of course, the interviewer cannot ask follow-up questions if prohibited topics are mentioned by the candidate. But just allowing an individual to talk about him or herself can give an interviewer a good insight into the person speaking.
That is true not only for interviews. We also learn a lot from listening to people talk. And people learn a great deal about us from our words.
For example, the words we use to describe a person of another race, the phrases we employ to describe someone with whom we disagree politically, say something about us. Our words reveal more about us than we may realize.
In Sunday's First Reading (Sirach 27:4-7), Sirach, the wise Jewish teacher, tells us to listen carefully to a person's speech for it reveals what is in that person's heart. He says, "When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear, so do one's faults when one speaks."
A person's speech, Sirach tells us, also indicates a person's education and moral upbringing. Just as the quality of fruit produced by a tree reveals the care that tree has been given, "so does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind."
Sirach also cautions us not to judge anyone worthy of honor until we have spent time hearing what that person has to say. "Praise no one before he speaks."
In Sunday's Gospel (Luke 6:39-45), Jesus echoes the advice of Sirach. Besides teaching his followers they will be known by their actions, he also tells them their words will reveal the kind of people they are. "From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
We live in a culture where words have become increasingly nasty, cruel, crude, vicious and hateful; where words that were once censored are now said openly; where personal attacks, lies, gossip, and innuendo are hurled across the airwaves at those of differing views.
A culture where people have forgotten that while it is true that only sticks and stones can break a person's bones - words can hurt. They can break the human heart. They can crush a person's spirit. They can devastate a person's self-worth beyond repair.
While we easily recognize the words that indicate that someone's heart is not right with God or right with their neighbor, we may not be so quick to notice what our words reveal about our own spiritual condition.
As Jesus asks us, "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?" Or to put it another way, "Why do you hear their cruel words but are deaf to your own?"
In his life Jesus spoke words that brought healing, hope, forgiveness, mercy, and acceptance. His words came from his loving, compassionate heart. He spoke good words. He spoke Good News!
This Sunday we are challenged to consider our words. Those words reveal the condition of our hearts.
© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski