Caught with Our Foot in Our Mouth

by Susanna Mak
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 27:4-7

1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Luke 6:39-45

Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most iconic figures during the Civil Rights Movement in North America, spoke passionately and with authority about human dignity and against the ideologies that allowed certain groups to subjugate others based on race. His words are so powerful that even over half a century later, his “I have a Dream” speech still resonates in the here and now where injustice and inequity are rampant, and many continue to live in fear and isolation, particularly under the oppression of systemic discrimination. Indeed, words are a powerful tool. Dr. King’s words have penetrated the hearts of many, and throughout generations, continue to challenge “anyone with ears” to exchange fear and hatred for trust and love; subjugation and segregation for freedom; and division for communion (Mt 13:9). Contrary, Hitler’s words which are equally powerful, albeit in a destructive way, have literally obliterated millions during the Second World War. Our words, depending on how we use them, can either build up or tear down.

This Sunday’s readings remind us that the power of words can restore or destroy, save or kill. Sirach cautions readers to be mindful of their words before speaking. We definitely would not want to be caught with our foot in our mouth! Saying inappropriate things is indeed embarrassing, however, these words may also hurt in ways beyond our intentions. Further, Sirach explains that when we speak, our “faults” will also appear like “refuse” shaken from a sieve (ref. Sirach 27:4). Our “speech”, like fruits from a tree, “discloses the cultivation of the mind” (Sirach 27:6). If we feed our heart and mind with treachery and lies, the fruits produced will be bitter and poisonous. For instance, when we mistaken being critical for critical thinking, we tend to “see the speck in [our] neighbour’s eye” rather than noticing the “log” in our own eye (Lk 6:41). Jesus warns us of our hypocrisy when we can only see others’ fault but are blind to our own.

Further, in this week’s second reading, Paul juxtaposes the written law that is the “power of sin” bringing only death, with Jesus’ victory over death that brings “imperishability” and “immortality” (1Cor 15:56,54). Paul encourages us to be “steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord”, not because of the letter of the law but in good faith and out of a genuine love for God (1Cor 15:58).

Inevitably, good words come from a good heart “for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). When we allow God to nurture our heart with the One true Word - the Word made flesh, Christ our Lord - we will be able to produce an abun-dance of good fruits that reflect God’s glory. Indeed, words sprung from such loving soil give life and build up. “Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush” (Lk 6:44).