Words – Jett Villarin, SJ

Luke 6:39-45, 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Shake up the sieve and the rubbish soon appears.”

You would think that this saying from Ecclesiasticus (our first reading today) is all about shaking things up to sort out the bad from the good. It may be so but the shaking that is referred to here is the shaking of air. It is about speaking and the sound of our words. 

In another translation: “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.”

Speaking about rubbish, we have been having quite a feast of irreverent language both online and offline. Not much shaking needed really to bring indecent and hate speech to the table.

Dialogue and conversation are not possible when husks are scattered all over the place. Perhaps that is the diabolical intent: to prevent dialogue and foment division. Divide and conquer.

Dirty and dark language also has a way of going viral. Count on human nature to be so fixated on the macabre and sensational. Perhaps that can be another sinister ploy: to be headlined and feted by the fans. Lots of copycats and echocats out there now. Be liked and conquer.

The internet is a marvel of human technological prowess. But it has also built a Babel of tongues. Facts, not just wrongs, are checked with alarming frequency in our world today. Partial truths and outright lies have made it to the public square. Another demonic strategy: confuse and conquer.

Screwtape must be having a party, shaking the sieve in utmost delight.

Where are these words coming from?

Thank God we only have one mouth. Could you imagine if it were a pair? Evolution eventually had us sporting two eyes and two ears, to give us depth of sight and hearing. After millions of years of natural selection, one mouth for speaking (and eating) would have been enough to get us going.

But words do not just come from a singular mouth. Jesus tells us today that they come from some place much deeper inside us.

“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.”

We sometimes think of these words of his as pointing to children and parents, disciple and master. That may very well be so but in this particular context, if we finish the sentences of today’s Gospel, we discover he is telling us something else. 

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.”

Our Lord is telling us that our words come from the heart, from whatever is stored in our heart. Said another way, the words we speak are words that gush from the heart. In another translation of that last clause: “A person’s words flow out of what fills their heart.”

What fills one’s heart. We are asked to see what it is that fills our heart. We may not really know until the words come out. Angry words of judgment come from a heart stored with anger and judgment. Words that are careless and worth nothing pour outfrom a heart that is empty and careless. Words of value come from a heart that is full of longing and reverence for what truly matters in life. Words of forgiveness and patience, from a heart that has learned to see its own brokenness and guilt, itself yearning to be forgiven and healed. Words of love and affirmation, likewise.

We are to be careful then of what we allow to fill our heart. 

In truth, the Word made flesh, the Word of God, flows out of what fills the very heart of God. When God speaks, God speaks from the heart. So are we asked to do likewise, today more than ever, that when we speak, we too should speak from our heart.

*From God’s Word Today in the Philippine Star

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