Curbing the Tongue! – Sunday Synopsis

Justine John Dyikuk

Justine John Dyikuk

Shikrot Mpwi – Sunday Synopsis with Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk

Eight Sunday of the Year C – February 27, 2022.

Reading: Sir. 27:4-7; Responsorial Psalm 92:1-2.12-13.14-15(R.1a); 1 Cor. 15:54-58 & Gospel Luke 6:39-45.

Theme: Curbing the Tongue!

Sunday Synopsis

The first reading discloses that since speech is the test of a man’s integrity, we must guard against praising people before they speak. In the second reading, St. Paul argues that Death is swallowed up in victory as in the end, perishability would take on imperishability. He urges the faithful never to give up as their labour shall not be in vain. The gospel recounts Jesus’ teaching about the relationship between the heart and the mouth. It insists that the mouth merely says what is stored in the heart. Mindful of Jesus’ caution against hypocrisy in which he stresses that a blind man cannot lead another blind man, today’s liturgy challenges us to seek personal purity from the inside before we can reform others through our speech and action.

Introduction

Friends in Christ, our liturgy today cautions us about the wrong use of the tongue. The scripture says, “Out of the abundance of the mouth the heart flows” (Cf.  Matthew 12:34; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 10:11; Psalm 14:1). That is to say, the tongue does not act on its own. It is propelled by something from the inside. Indeed, it is from the inner recesses of the heart that the mouth flows. This is why the bible says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech” (1 Peter 3:10).

Background & Summary of the Readings

The first reading (Sir. 27:4-7) relates that “a man’s words betray what he feels.” Ben Sirach empathically states that “the defects of a man appear in his speech.” He also warns against praising people before they speak since speech is the test of a man’s character and integrity.

In the second reading (1 Cor. 15:54-58), St. Paul argues that Death is swallowed up in victory because a time would come when perishability would put on imperishability and mortality, immortality. He maintains that we should thank God for the victory through Jesus Christ. He urges that the faithful should go on working for the Lord and never give up stressing that their labour shall never be in vain.

The gospel (Luke 6:39-45) recounts Jesus’ teaching about the close relationship between the heart and the mouth. In his catechesis, Jesus insists that the mouth merely says what is stored in the heart. He compares the scenario with a tree noting that a rotten tree cannot produce good fruits; likewise, a good tree cannot produce bad fruits which indicate that a good person is known through his or her speech. He also cautioned against hypocrisy stressing that a blind man cannot lead another blind man.

Those Whose Speech Put them in Trouble: Some Biblical Examples

  1. Ananias and Sapphira: A classical example of those whose speech caused their destruction are Ananias and Sapphira who lied. They decided to hoard some parts of the money that accrued from the sale of their land and declared a little before the apostles. The long and short of the story is that they were struck dead (Cf. Acts 5:1-11).
  2. Apostle Peter: When Jesus told his disciples about his impending death, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said: “This shall never happen to you!” (Cf. Matt 16:22). Jesus had to rebuke him for such hate-speech because he was thinking in the flesh. He was a stumbling block to Jesus’ going into Jerusalem to face his passion.                

Contemporary Implications of Foul Speech

Have you ever considered how many people have lost their lives because of gossip? Do you realize that some people have lost their jobs because of backbiting and gossip? Has it occurred to you that some people are at the highest echelon of power today because they blackmailed others? Do you know that an estimated number of 5r million people were killed in the Rwanda genocide in 2003 as a result of hate speech on Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) radio station?

Do you know many married people today are divorced because of lies and wrong advice? How about family feuds which have decimated clans and villages because of the foul speech of few people? How about those who engage in false media-propaganda to smear others, promote hate-speech and “fill the airwaves with immoral language”?

Pastoral Lessons

  1. Guard Your Utterances: Ben Sirach’s message that “a man’s words betray what he feels” and “the defects of a man appear in his speech” challenges all especially religious, traditional and political leaders to avoid unguarded speeches which are capable of further dividing people based on religious, ethnic and political fault lines.
  2. Avoid Praise-singing/Flattery: In a society where praise-singing and flattery of eloquent leaders is the in-thing, members of the laity are urged to be cautious about praising people before they speak because speech is the test of a person’s character and integrity.
  3. Remember the Last Day: St. Paul’s thesis that perishability would put on imperishability and mortality, immortality reminds us that no matter how we bamboozle people with sugarcoated speeches for selfish reasons, some day, we would give an account of our lives before the creator.
  4. Jesus’ teaching that just as a good tree cannot produce bad fruits indicates that a good person is known from his or her speech because of the close relationship between the heart and the mouth.
  5. Seek the Holy Spirit: We are charged to allow the Holy Spirit control over our tongue so as to be true children of our father in heaven bearing in mind that personal purity from the inside would embolden us to reform others with our speech and action.

Summary Lines

  1. The first reading discloses that since speech is the test of a man’s integrity, we must guard against praising people before they speak.
  2. In the second reading, St. Paul argues that Death is swallowed up in victory as in the end, perishability would take on imperishability.
  3. He urges the faithful never to give up as their labour shall not be in vain.
  4. The gospel recounts Jesus’ teaching about the relationship between the heart and the mouth.
  5. It insists that the mouth merely says what is stored in the heart.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Jesus calls us to avoid being hypocritical. Rather, he challenges us to seek inner renewal which would make our speech pure. In that way, we would be able to walk the talk. More than ever, the scripture urges us to embrace the Holy Spirit which has the power to control our thoughts, speeches and actions. Based on the dictum: “Do not put your mouth into motion before your brain into gear,” we are charged to guard our utterances and measure them on biblical principles. There is no time in the political history of Nigeria that we need to avoid hate-speech than now – Christians are the ones who need to lead the way. Have a fruitful week!

NB: As we start Lent on March 2, 2022 being Ash Wednesday, I urge you to kindly pray for our country Nigeria that God may lead her in the path of peace, prosperity and progress!

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