Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 27, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Sirach 27:4-7
Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
Luke 6:39-45

The Book of Sirach advises us to attend to our speech.  There is an old saying that “Speech is silver, but silence is golden.” The writer of Sirach doesn’t tell us what he thinks about silence, but speech isn’t going to be silver unless it comes from silver. Our speech reveals who we are — not just our thoughts and feelings, but also our character with its virtues and its faults. What we choose to speak about and the way we present things indicates what we think is important and whether we are thoughtful or thoughtless. Speech also precedes action.

Yet, speech does not create reality. The tyranny of the cancel culture imposes the claim that language creates reality, so the oligarchs of the cancel culture rush to grasp the narrative and shape it as soon as possible because they hold that saying something makes it true because at this moment it feels like it is true. They espouse a culture based upon lies and half-truths that in the end will only enslave human beings. Just as habeas corpus in the rule of law protects the human person from political tyranny, so the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition directed to the truth as known through faith and right reason protects the human person from the intellectual and spiritual tyranny of the cancel culture, which is the enforcement arm of the dictatorship of relativism.

“A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” Prudential assessment of others’ actions as revelatory of their character and trustworthiness is not the same as the judgment of other people. The practice of discernment and considering options is essential to growth and development in a Christian’s life of discipleship, and that does not necessarily result in definitively judging the inner motives of others. This second type of judgment is sinful and forbidden by Christ because when a person does that, they attempt to usurp the rightful place of God.

The call of the readings from today is to take a good look at ourselves, not the surface reflection we see in a mirror but what is underneath this reflection at the core of our character.  We look deeply into ourselves by listening carefully to our words that reveal and manifest the contours of our soul.  The kind of person we are and the things we consider important are revealed in our speech. “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.”

The late Jesuit priest and philosopher Father James Schall once wrote, Facing the truth of things is both our glory and our burden…And why…is it so difficult to know the truth? In part…because our lives are not in order so that we cannot bear the truth because we know that it requires us to change our lives…The very nature of our being is unsettled until we stand in truth…Saint Augustine said that… ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

With careful listening we discover whether we are focused on my needs or those of others, whether prayer or gossip is more important in our lives, whether I am in control of my life or I have turned that over to God.  What scares us away from reflection on ourselves is that we may not like what we discover.  Jesus asks us to be honest with ourselves when we face the only truly important question for us to answer: “Will you come follow me?” It is only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to speak the answer “yes” and to follow our words of acceptance with actions of discipleship that show forth God’s goodness present in our character.

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