Homily – September 2, 2018

Religion pure and undefiled before God is this, to care for widows and orphans in their distress and keep and oneself unstained by the world.

In the gospel we have Jesus exposing the shallowness of the Scribes and Pharisees in their religious observance. They strain the gnat and swallow the camel. Jesus tells them that what we eat or drink does not defile us. It is what comes out of our mouths which tells what is in our hearts, what makes us tick.

Jesus was focused on faith and integrity, not hygiene.

TV ads are loaded with advice as to what we should eat if we want to maintain healthy weights and live healthy lives. There is a diet a day.

When we receive Holy Communion we become what we receive, Christ Himself. This should have an impact on what comes out of our mouths, how we speak to others, how we speak of others.

If what comes out of our mouths are racial slurs and bigoted remarks about good people of other races and faiths then we do not echo the voice of the bread of life we’ve received. If what comes out of our mouths are gossips and lies about family or friends, then we do not speak as one nourished by the bread of life. If our conversations are smutty and sexist then we do not speak for the bread of life we’ve received. If our words blame the victim, having no sympathy or empathy for the homeless person whose home is the street, if we have no feeling for the mother or father who has no job or the person who is paid a minimum wage instead of a living wage, then we do not echo the invitation of Christ, ‘come to me all you who find life burdensome. If we take the name of the Lord in vain, if the holy name of Jesus is a common expletive then what comes out of our mouths defiles us and the bread of life we’ve received is tasteless.

What comes out of our mouths defiles us if we fail to follow the advice of St. Paul; say only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them. When our words are positive, when our words are helpful and encouraging then the bread of life we’ve received is bearing fruit. When we speak respectfully of other people’s faith, when we speak sympathetically of the plight of refugees knocking at our doors, when we call for justice for the homeless and the working poor we echo the words of Jesus, whatever you do to one of these, the least of mine you do to me. Whenever we speak out for a person who is put down or belittled in a conversation we speak for Christ.

Whenever we hold out our empty hand to receive the host we are touched by Jesus who left us the new commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ How did he love us? On the cross he continued to love, forgive and give his life even when those he loved were destroying him.

May the words that come out of our mouths be words of praise and thanks to God and words that lift up, heal and strengthen those to whom we speak.