We all know how some people can talk a mile a minute, and others who are on the rather quiet side. Personalities abound in God’s good creation. It’s the same with nature too. Birds love to chirp, especially in the spring and summer, at times waking us up from our slumber, telling their tales to each other from a distance or close-up. Yet, deer who inhabit the woods are the quietest animals, walking softly, not barking like dogs needing attention, not howling like coyotes. Nature runs the entire spectrum of sound, from quiet to loud, like the neighbor’s dog who never stops barking.
One theme for this week’s readings as we prepare for the upcoming penitential season of Lent, is that of speaking. Knowing when to and when not to, having the wisdom to remain quiet, and the fortitude to speak, and knowing when to do each. But even more, speaking in such ways that produces fruit, or the store of goodness that Jesus calls it, and doing away with the store of evil that produces nothing good.
The first topic in this regard would be that of gossip. Gossip produces evil because it sets us up as the momentary ultimate judge of another person, when God is always the final arbiter. So, if we say, “Hey, that guy over there, that billionaire over there who owns a football team, did you hear that he was caught in a massage parlor doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing?”
I had a priest friend from another unnamed state call me up last week to tell me that story, with a little hint of glee in his voice. He felt I needed to know. “Hey, did you hear that Bob Kraft got caught in a prostitution sting?” He’s lucky I didn’t hang up on him. Gossip is a killer, whether we speak the truth or not. Gossip has nothing – ZERO – to do with truth. It has everything to do with judgment, and even more than everything to do with the wooden beam in our own eye. Because while my priest friend was speaking the actions of the owner of a local football team, he was also, at the same time, producing from his “store of evil.”
So, as Christians, what are we to speak? What words, or actions, speak to the truer reflection of Christ, where the labor of our words are not spoken in vain? I suppose we can always go right to the first importance that touches our lives, that being death is swallowed up in victory, as St. Paul so kindly reminds us.
When’s the last conversation we had with someone where the topic was solely focused on the topic of death, and how the sting of death and the so-called victory of death has been destroyed? If we want a positive conversation, where the Spirit will provide words for our mouths that will bring hope to others and to ourselves, there it is. Death, and how death has been trampled upon by Jesus, crushed by his Cross, flattened by the sandals on his feet, and done away with like a dead mouse.
So, next time you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know in a restaurant or some other setting, say to them, “Hey, have you heard that Jesus destroyed death, and I look forward to seeing you again in heaven?” And they’ll look at you and say in between bites, “Really? That’s pretty cool. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Enjoy your meal.”
The Christian life is a journey toward building up God’s Kingdom through our voices and actions, while at the same time speaking and addressing certain important truths that are taking place in our society under our noses. Truths that are at times wonderful and uplifting, and other times truths that produce the evil Jesus refers to. Such as the truth of the present expansion of abortion bills in states where certain government leaders have created laws that destroy human life even after he or she has been born.
That stuff does not belong in a loving, caring, compassionate society, which is what we’re supposed to be here, are we not? That language on paper, and those actions in medical clinics and hospitals, is from what Jesus calls “the store of evil” in this Gospel. And that revelation on the Church’s part must be spoken, revealed, and seen for what it is.
In the midst of that horrific messiness created by some very sick human souls, we as Christians do not pull back from proclaiming the Good News. The Good News that death is swallowed up in victory, even the death of infants who will die at the hands of a law that belongs only in a barbaric culture. We speak the Good News that the Master has conquered the wooden beam and all the splinters in our eyes. He has conquered the effects of our sinful human weakness.
This is a rightful thought walking into Lent this coming Ash Wednesday, receiving ashes on our foreheads that coldly remind us that we are not long for this world. We’re created for life eternal.
Speak the good things of Christ in our daily vocabulary. Death is destroyed, sin is overcome, blood has been poured out for us, and the God-Man on the Cross is still the King of the Universe.