Interestingly on this “ordinary day” – Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time in our Church calendar, to be exact – there are two possible gospel readings from which to choose. If I’m not mistaken, that usually happens on big feast days or when a long gospel passage appears first and is followed by a shorter version of the same one. Today we have two completely different texts – the first being the familiar aftermath of the feeding of the five thousand that includes not only Jesus but Peter walking on water (MT 14:22-36). There’s a lot to talk about in that passage. It is the second text, however, that caught me this morning (MT 15:1-2, 10-14). It’s all worth pondering but it includes a sentence that I think is uniquely timely and important for each of us and all of us as foundational to our spirituality. Jesus says, It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles a person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.
The verb defile is quite strong. Synonyms include: to mar, sully, spoil, impair, debase or degrade. What Jesus is pointing out is the importance of the words we use every day. We might intuit from this that unkind words can devolve into unkind actions and hateful or violent thoughts or speech often lead to violence. It actually says that our speech can ruin things. We have many examples of this truth in the world today so in addition to praying for peace and enlightenment, it seems that an essential practice for all of us is to watch our speech. If negativity is becoming a constant in our lives we need to pay more attention and leave negative conversations behind. Awareness is key to success in these situations. As a wise woman once said to me, “Energy follows thought.” The train of negative speech gathers steam very quickly after leaving the station. So putting on the brakes and jumping off that train becomes crucial to our own health and that of all those in our circles of conversation.
My plan for today will include an attempt to watch every word that comes from my mouth and (even better) work to see if I can catch the negatives while they’re still rolling around inside me. If I am able to do that, I might also be able to breathe them out so that they dissipate in the air without damage to me or the world around me.