The Power of our words … Do they divide or unite? Do they Empower or diminish?


The Power of our words … Do they divide or unite? Do they Empower or diminish?

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – June 9, 2024

How many times have you been hurt by what people say to you?  And how many times do we wish we’d kept quiet, or wish we’d used positive words to encourage others?

Structural elements in Gospel passages don’t usually get me excited, but today it’s a sandwich!  The opening text explains how Jesus went home and his family think He’s lost his mind.

The Gospel closes with Jesus redefining what is family: Those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  Inside the sandwich, Jesus warns us about evil and the sin against the Holy Spirit.

What is this sin against the Holy Spirit?  According to Fr Richard Rohr OFM: it is that sin which we do not ask for forgiveness for, because we don’t think it’s a sin.  Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI says: it’s when we turn the truth into a lie, and a lie into the truth.  He goes on to point out that the three synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke), all talk about the “sin” but leave it undefined.  Whereas the Gospel of John gives us, in chapter 9, the story of the man born blind: and the Pharisees refuse to believe the truth before them.  Read it.

Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not.  Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda,” says psychologist Tom Stafford.

We turn the truth into a lie and a lie into the truth.  That is how the lie of white superiority justified apartheid.  How many other wars, likewise, used the Bible to justify them?  When we lose the truth, our future becomes more violent, less united and more unhappy.

And, closer to home, how many times do we do the same on a smaller scale?  We rationalise our bad behaviour or selfishness because “they don’t deserve it” or “they deserve to suffer”.

Most people today are not interested in discussing “sin”: we think it is for the religious idiots who are worried that God will send them to hell.  And this is one of the sins of religion:

We have codified “sin” as a series of actions or lack of actions: but sin is much more than the mistakes we make.  Sin is when we turn the truth into a lie and make lies our truth. Truth is revealed by what we do and how we act towards others.

We forget to reference our actions against the source of love (God) and simply compare it to “what everyone else is doing.”  This is called relativism, which Pope John Paul II talked about.

The warning about the sin against the Holy Spirit follows on after Jesus is dismissed by the leaders of the area because they don’t like his teaching or actions: they are afraid of losing their power as leaders and want Jesus to be gone.  They are acting out of fear.

How often do we act (or react) out of fear?  Even the family of Jesus appears to act in fear: but they don’t realise it.  The teaching of Jesus is very radical: now, Christians accept as normal that the church is a family and we look after each other.  But not 2,000 years ago!

We can recall St Paul criticising some of his communities where the wealthy members came to church with baskets of food and wine for themselves and the poorer members ate very little.  We salute the many traditional communities who cared for each other even before the Christian message came.  A sign that the Wisdom of God, and actions of the Holy Spirit were present.

There is one other important point raised by our youth that causes us to sin: they expressed the desire that we be more understanding of people acting badly, because we all carry around a lot of stress and problems.  We don’t know what has happened to the people who annoy us.

Sometimes we think we know, but we only know the surface.  We don’t know what has happened underneath in the person’s heart and soul.  Are they carrying pain and shame from past abuses received from people?  Were they treated well by their parents and siblings?

Were their teachers harsh and impatient, or gentle and patient? Has their spouse recently cheated them or lost their family money for the week? Has their child suddenly become very sick and needs medical care they cannot afford.

When Adam and Eve committed the big sin in the garden, how did God respond? They treated God disrespectfully, then they tried to hide, then they blamed others. But, God, with great patience and understanding, made clothes for them out of fig leaves.

Let us go and do the same, remembering that a few words of sympathy, understanding and encouraging will empower and unite us more closely.  Don’t let our own problems and worries, cause us to utter a few words harshly and quickly that cause divisions and sadness in others: it will always come back to hurt us, also.

The sandwich of life is family: what happens in-between the beginning and the end, depends on whether we stick to the truth, or allow evil to creep in through our words and deceitful actions.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI