15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Talk is cheap.” “Actions speak louder than words.”
As indicated by those sayings our appreciation of words has lessened. Perhaps it’s because we hear so many of them. There seems to be no escape, especially now with the ubiquitous cell phone. Very often words become just noise to be blocked out or, through radio and TV, are used to fill the silence as we drive our cars, do our work or relax at home.
This was not always so. In the ancient Near East the spoken word was thought of as a distinct entity, alive with power. The spoken word was understood as a reality that endured beyond the moment it was uttered, often living even after the one who spoke it was long gone. A curse, once spoken, would remain forever a curse; a blessing, once declared, would remain forever a blessing. There were no recalls, no “do-overs”. Therefore the word was valued and revered.
Against this background, the word of God becomes an even more formidable reality. God speaks, and it happens. God says, “Let there be . . .”, and it is.
Although the words of the Scriptures were spoken and then written is a particular social situation, those words are proclaimed as “living” and thus able to speak to each and every culture and age.
Perhaps an example will help. Many years ago, my aunt and I used to sit on her porch at the farm in the quiet of the evening. It was very still since there was hardly ever any traffic and only one or two neighbors. One evening she yelled out “Hello!”, and a few seconds later to my surprise, I heard her voice answer from the distance “Hello!” That was my introduction to an echo. An echo happens when a word reverberates and returns. Although sounding like the original sound the word and the echo have traveled across open space and time. Upon its return, it has been affected by that journey and is something new and different.
God’s word is like that, launched into the world and continues to be launched into different settings bringing its message into each of them and then returning as somewhat new. It is always the same and yet always different.
So, the word we hear proclaimed means something. How much attention do we give it? And the words we speak also have power. So, engage the brain before opening the mouth.
I leave you with one other saying: “Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”