27 February 2013

Today's Chapel Homily on the 8th Commandment

[Text: Ephesians 4:29–5:2]

In today’s NT reading in the Treasury, our Lord speaks devastating words: “What goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean. What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. For from the heart comes evil intentions: murder, adultery, fornication, theft, perjury, slander. These are the things that make a man unclean.”

From the sewer of your heart, your mouth speaks. You tell lies. You shade stories that you relate to make yourself appear better than you know the actual facts support. You run down your neighbor, your wife, your husband, your co-workers, and worst of all, you enjoy doing it. And when someone else is running them down and you know that you could explain their actions a bit more kindly, you keep silent and go along.

And the hypocrisy of it! You most certainly do NOT want your neighbor to treat you in the way you treat them. You WANT them to defend you, speak well of you, and explain your actions in the kindest way. But you don’t do it for them. Repent.

What a comfort that St. Paul had to write the words of today’s epistle to the Christians in Ephesus! You realize why he had to tell them not to let corrupting talk come out of their mouths, but only what is good, what builds up as the occasion demands, what gives grace to those who hear? You realize why he had to tell them to be done with the bitterness and temper, the loud shouting at each other and the malice that delights in others’ misery? He had to remind them because they were like you and me. They broke the 8th with abandon and yet he would teach them and us that there is a better way, the way of Christ.

Think of it! He is not your accuser. He is your defender. “The Son of man did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” He is your advocate, the one who speaks on your behalf before His Father. The one who pleads for your forgiveness and constantly points to the blood that He shed to blot out your every sin, even your sins of speech. He speaks of you in the kindest way: “You are my beloved, You are my fellow-heir. All that is mine is Yours for I have died and shed my blood to win it for you and now I live forevermore to deliver it to you. Fear not!”

Behold, how your Lord speaks of you! And when you are brought into communion with Him, then the old way, the devil’s way, the accusing of the brethren way, must die. Your Jesus gives you the gift of dying to the lying, drowning the bitterness, and taking the breath away from the nasty words. He gives you the gift of learning His way, the new way, the way of explaining actions in the kindest way, for that flows from HIS heart, a heart in which there is only compassion, tenderness, love.

“Be imitators of God, as children much loved,” St. Paul exhorts. “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” Therefore let us pray with the Psalmist: Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips. Amen.

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