When we talk about other people, what we say often reveals more about us than about the person of whom we speak. If we are kind and considerate, positive words that edify effortlessly and habitually emanate from us about others, but if we are ill-willed and bitter, chances are that our representation of others will be based on our inherent negative and bitter standards.
The book of Sirach, from where we have our first reading this weekend, firmly agrees with this line of thought. For Sirach, one’s speech presents a veritable and reliable basis for assessing their character. The inner person is often revealed as virtuous or vicious by external speech. The inspired author of the first reading admits that though speech could be deceptive and even capable of making the speaker appear better than he really is, this deception cannot be maintained indefinitely; words will eventually reveal one’s true character. Speech is the fruit that reveals how much care the tree of one’s life has received. People who dutifully appropriate to themselves the eternal nourishment provided by God’s word will habitually produce virtuous speech, while those who resisted or neglected Divine assistance and prompting will most likely radiate negativity, slander, vain discourse, and vicious speech.
In the Gospel, Jesus stresses the need for the teacher to also be a model, to avoid the danger of hypocrisy, and the mark of a good person. The teacher ought to be a model, not only in intellectual activity but also in practical living. Therefore, we should exercise care in assimilating ideas whose proponents have failed miserably in living virtuous lives.
Secondly, we ought to be careful not to drive into pharisaic hypocrisy. We are often quick to see and point out the faults of others, even when our own vices are glaringly more notorious. Christians should not pretend to be the uninvited conscience of others. We should rather ensure that sincere personal examination of conscience comes before attempting fraternal correct on.
Finally, Jesus gives us an empirical model of identifying goodness in people: by their fruits. By fruits, the Divine Redeemer means speech, thoughts, and personal deeds, as well as the effects they have on others and the whole community. Each of us is invited to place our personal fruits today on the Divine scale of love and so discover how we can be defined.
While we struggle to become true witnesses, let us pray that we may never concentrate on our brethren’s weaknesses while neglecting our sinful hearts that are in perpetual need of healing. May we bear fruits of thoughts that are pure, speech that edifies, and loving acts that positively influence others and our community.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST