Living Rightly in a Talkative Time

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Illustration by Frank Kacmarcik, OblSB, Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.

We are drowning in words these days, a figurative and literal noisiness. Our computers, televisions, and other devices create a cacophony of chatter. Texts, tweets, and social-media memes and posts bombard us with an ever-flowing current of phrases and advertisements. And the devolution of political and ecclesial discourse results in barely coherent soundbites and intentionally “viral” media. 

Suffice it to say there are a lot of people saying a lot of things, and it can be difficult to discern what is trustworthy, beautiful, or good. 

In the time of Jesus and his first followers, including St. Barnabas, there may have been fewer unsolicited words slung at people, but there was still a sense that the use of words in lieu of demonstrable action could be misleading. Jesus tells his followers not to bother with grand demonstrations of sincerity through the swearing of oaths. His message is simple: let your actions speak for themselves. 

If you are a trustworthy and honorable person, then people will come to know that about you. No amount of verbosity can substitute for honesty and truthfulness in behavior, so don’t waste your time with trying to convince others by words alone. 

This simple message in today’s Gospel is all the more relevant today when the volume of words promising this and swearing that has intensified beyond what first-century Christians could have imagined. The challenge for us today is to live as authentically and honestly as we can, demonstrating our sincerity with our actions and not merely with our words. 

© Liturgical Press.

Fr. Daniel Horan

Daniel P. Horan, OFM, is the Dun Scotus Chair of Spirituality at the Catholic Theological Union (Chicago). He is the author of several books, including Reading, Praying, Living Pope Francis’s Rejoice and Be Glad.

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