Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (March 3, 2019)

“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks…”

Today’s selections from the Book of Sirach and Luke’s Gospel suggest a powerful standard by which we can judge the heart and mind of another person: the subject and manner about which one speaks.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Negative people tend to speak negatively. Jealous people speak resentfully. Judgmental people speak suspiciously. Their conversations tend to weigh others down.

By contrast, positive people speak positively. Happy people speak graciously. Energized people speak enthusiastically. Their conversations tend to lift others up.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, conversation seems to be expressions of the heart.

Francis de Sales writes in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “Just as physicians learn about a person’s health or sickness by looking at the tongue, so our words are a true indication of the state of our souls.” (Part III, Chapter 26) This diagnosis has several aspects.

First: how do we speak of God? “If you are truly in love with God you should often speak of God in familiar conversation with others…just as bees extract with their mouths nothing but honey, so your tongue should always be sweetened with its God…always with attention and reverence.” (Ibid)

Second: how do we speak of others? “Be careful never to let an indecent word leave your lips, for even if you do not speak with an evil intention those who hear it may take it a different way.” When one’s heart is filled with evil or rancor or intrigue, their tongues are no longer like the sweet ones of the bees but become “like a lot of wasps gathered together to feed on corruption.” (Part III, Chapter 27)

Third: how balanced is our conversation? “It seems to me that we should avoid two extremes,” observes Francis de Sales. “To be too reserved and to refuse to take part in conversation looks like lack of confidence in the others or some kind of disdain. On the other hand, to be always babbling or joking without giving others time or chance to speak when they wish is a mark of shallowness and levity.” (Part III, Chapter 30)

What do the content and tone of our words tell others about our hearts?