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06/26/16 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

G.K. Chesterton said that being a Christian changes everything – even the way you brush your teeth. His point was simple: a Christian is given the power to live differently. This is especially evident in the way we speak about others.

In the second reading today, St Paul refers to that when he exhorts the Galatians to be guided by the Spirit.

Galatia was a city in what’s now Turkey. The early Christians there were undergoing some strife and dissension, which St Paul was trying to correct. He tells them: “If you go on biting and devouring each other, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”

This point is perennially valid. In the Letter of James, we read: “With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse others, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in number 2477 that “The sin of detraction is committed when we, without objectively valid reasons, disclose another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them.” (Some objectively valid reasons could be, for example, when someone commits a crime and we need to report that, or when someone is endangering himself of others and we need to tell the competent authority.) In a 2013 homily, Pope Francis said: “Every time we judge our brothers and sisters in our heart, and worse, when we talk about it with others, we are killer Christians”, imitating Cain who committed “the first homicide in history”.

Our experience confirms this. How do we feel after we’ve gossiped or torn someone down with our words? Maybe we feel good for a few minutes, but afterwards there’s a feeling of uneasiness. We know that we just did something that isn’t right or loving.

So against this, St Paul is reminding the Galatians, and, through them, us, that we have been called to freedom, and freedom means to love. One of the most powerful ways that we love is by speaking well of others.

Freedom means choosing to love. And love is real when it influences everything we say about others. 

In the gospel of Luke, we read the following story.

Jesus was in the temple, and he saw a widow approaching the temple treasury. It was customary for the Jewish people to offer money to support the temple. And clearly, the more you contributed the more praiseworthy your action appeared to be. But this widow only put in two small copper coins. These were known as Lepta, and they were the smallest coins in circulation in ancient Judea. Two of them together were worth about 6 minutes of an average daily wage. At current minimum wage that’s about 72 cents. It must have seemed like a pittance to the apostles.

But Jesus praises her. He says that was all she had to give, and she gave it. He sees the good in this woman, and he draws it out in his words.

Jesus builds up the widow, and teaches his followers an unforgettable lesson.  

How do we form the habit of speaking well of others? By thinking well of them. In the Letter to the Philippians St Paul tells us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious… if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore the wrong that others do. But we don’t allow that to define who they are.  Living in freedom means having the freedom to see the good in someone else; and if we’re thinking about that, it’s going to carry over into our words.

So this week let’s all pick someone and begin to see the good in that person. Each day, pick one good aspect of that person and focus on it. And you’ll be amazed at the effect that has on your words.

As we prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist, we ask him to give us his vision, that we may truly see what is good in others, and praise it. 



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