“The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.” (Sirach). The Psalm tells us that it is good to give thanks to the Lord (good speech!) because then we will flourish like a palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall we grow. “They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish…bear fruit even in old age, be vigorous and sturdy…” St. Luke writes what Jesus says in instructing His disciples: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit…and from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” We are shown to be what we are by what we say (and do)—whether from the “store of goodness in our heart, or a store of evil.”
The Living Liturgy writes that we as people sometimes assume masks with each other. Jesus’ message is to be and act consistently with who we are—that ultimately who we are will eventually be clear to all anyway as we go through life together—but it is a matter of choosing, too. Sirach says “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks…so in tribulation is the test of the just.” Do your moments of tribulation—of sadness, sorrow, anger, disappointment, fear, injustice, envy, and temptation—cause you to step away from your Christian discipleship and mission? This is a good question to ponder as we turn toward the Lenten season this week and turn inward for reconciliation and prayer.
Think about the things we humans sometimes say to one another: how we sometimes are people have “no filter” or we excuse people’s rudeness as free speech, or we manipulate a situation. What we say and what we do exposes who we are to those around us. Have you ever heard someone apologize for what they are about to say? In my opinion, if you need to apologize for something before you actually say it, you probably shouldn't say it at all. If we think about it, with just a few more minutes delay (count to ten?) or even sleeping on those thoughts for at least a night, isn't it possible that we could come up with a better way to say whatever it is we need to say? However, what is your motivation for speaking, and will it be productive: loving, caring, compassionate, merciful? Knowing that speaking what you have to say could be more readily accepted by the hearer. You might even decide that you don't need to share those words at all, or maybe they would be better received by someone else. Maybe what you need to say crosses lines of MYOB (mind your own business), judgyness, meanness, or self-serving words. A moment of reflection or reconciliation or consideration might lead to better communication, peace and resolution.
I know that sometimes it is necessary for most people to express concerns, or to sometimes vent their emotions. Even then, I believe that we can all work toward better communication and care of each other. A strategy that magnifies the negative is rarely productive. The effective loving conversationalist always begins with words that build relationships up and invite understanding.
All these readings today speak about the fruit of our words: what we say to each other can kill our spirits, injure our hearts, destroy our relationships, and tear down the very temples of our physical beings. Our words may also show us to be doers of God’s Word: saving and salving our spirits, shoring up the edifices of our hearts, spreading God’s grace and mercy to those around us. A tree is known by its fruit—whether for good or evil. Time to choose…
Just a Note: Abide in the Lord to bear good fruit, the fruits of the Spirit.