27 February 2022 at Saint William & Saint Agnes & Saint Peter Catholic Churches in Naples, FL
Sirach 27, 4-7 + Psalm 92 + 1 Corinthians 15, 54-58+ Luke 6, 39-45
A wise Jesuit once taught me that what Jesus warns against is the danger of judging not actions but the human heart.
With that in mind we take up one last time a part of the great Sermon on the Plain from which we have read for the past four weeks. What we have today is a series of three unrelated separate sayings of Jesus gathered into one place. Shorter than Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, this is a short list of absolutely essential components of authentic Christianity. No matter how we may try to restrain ourselves or control our thinking, inevitably, what we think and what we believe gets said. We talk, and when we do, we reveal more about ourselves than we do about whatever or whoever we are talking about. Our speech reveals our inner nature.
This Gospel warns that one who is blind to the goodness in others, and who speaks of evil of them instead, reveals their own puny measure of God’s openness to goodness. Those who see only their neighbor’s tiny faults and rush to point them out expose the logjam that blocks their own hearts from receiving and giving God’s love.
The good tree is not the tree that looks good. It is the tree that bears good fruit, and as Jesus says: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good.” The abundant heart expresses itself in abundant deeds, not abundant words which suggests that perhaps, as the Old Testament reading suggests, we all ought to say less and do more.
Those of us who want to take seriously these essential components of authentic Christianity must truly believe that Christian life is not about searching out the faults of others, but about attacking the greater faults in ourselves. Our faith is about practice, not theory. It’s about doing, not saying. Religion in the end is a way of walking, not a way of talking. It is about the good deeds of faith, hope, and love, and an abundance of them. When we cultivate our inner goodness only kind speech will well up and pass from our lips.
In these days when human discourse, courtesy, respect, and honor seem to sink to a new and intolerable low, we must be on guard. One of the surest indications of good or bad in the hearts of people is their speech. The first reading tells us wisely that in adversity one’s inner disposition is revealed. It said: “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear.” Anyone can speak well of others when all is going smoothly. But those who can resist returning insult for insult when others speak harshly or make false accusation show their real dignity. In every one of us there is a storehouse of evil and of good. What we say and what we do will reveal which is the greater as we look for the good in all those around us.