A famous quote with a little controversy over its originator says, “watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for they become your destiny”.
One of the things that differentiate us from animals is our ability to speak with clarity and logical reasoning. We use speech to communicate our thoughts and feelings. In the First Reading today (Sirach 27:4-7), the writer tells us that as the fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so does one’s speech disclose what is on the person’s mind and the passage goes on to instruct that it is wrong to praise someone before he (she) speaks.
It Starts in Our Thoughts
While addressing the crowds in the Gospel of Matthew (15:11-20), our Lord Jesus Christ declares that it is not what goes inside of a person that defiles the individual but what comes out from the heart where evil thoughts get their formation. The mouth, in turn, serves to let out the thoughts in words. From this description, we understand that the words that come out from our mouths are verbal expressions of our thoughts.
The description above helps us to understand the importance of actively monitoring what goes into our thoughts mostly from the external senses and how they influence our thoughts. If we keep the doors of our minds open for all kinds of distortions, then our thoughts would be filled with obnoxious things that would, in turn, form the basis of our speeches and actions.
Words are Powerful
From the story of the creation in the Book of Genesis, we learn that God created the world through verbal declarations, for instance, the Book of Genesis (1:3) says, “Then God said, let there be light, and there was light.” There is power in the words we speak; they can help or hinder, encourage or discourage, brighten or darken. The Book of Proverbs (12:6) says, “the words of the wicked are a deadly ambush, but the speech of the upright delivers them.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ relates how our words would determine our fate before God when he mentions that on the day of judgment you will give an account of every careless word you utter. He goes on to say that by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned (Matt. 12:36-37). To guard against unhelpful words, St. Paul gives the following advice to the Ephesians (4:29): “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful to build up as there is a need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
Action Speaks Louder than Words
In the Gospel of Matthew (21:28-31) our Lord presents an interesting parable to demonstrate the importance of action over mere words. The parable speaks of a man who had two sons. He goes to the first and asks him to go and work in the vineyard, and he says he would but later changed his mind. The second son did not agree to go but changed his mind and went. Among the two the one who accomplished the will of the father would be the second son who gave a negative response but later complied with affirmative action.
While the words we use are powerful, our actions could be more powerful. Action results when we dramatize our words. It is like saying “I will help you” and making it happen by helping the person. We often hear God demands actions from us beyond mere words. The First Letter of John (1 John 3:18) says, “little children, let us not love in words or talk but in deeds and truth.
Moving Forward: Mind the Plank in Your Eye!
Sometimes, we have the false feeling that we are better than others and we do not need any form of growth and improvement. It is on account of this faulty thinking that our Lord in the Gospel today (Luke 6:39-45), maintains that we notice the splinter in our brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam (plank) in our eyes. This happens when we are quick to blame, criticize, judge and deride other people while making ourselves “saints” and unimpeachable. From our “plank-studded eyes” we don’t lie, steal, cheat, gossip, nor hate. It is always “the others” not “us”. Note this very well, judging others does not define who they are, it defines who you are!
Life is not about making us appearing good while making others look bad. Life should be more about what God thinks about us. By its fruit, every tree is known. Good trees bear good fruits, and bad trees bear bad fruits. You cannot give what you don’t have!
Instead of wasting time pointing out the mistakes and misdeeds of other people, let us try to focus on our lives; especially on our thoughts to remove those evil thoughts, that produce offensive words, actions, habits, and characters in our lives. There is a constant need to examine and re-examine ourselves to remove the wooden beams that block us from critical self-examination.
May the Lord bless His words in our hearts, and may a fabulous week ahead be our portion. God bless you.