Monday, June 01, 2009

Loosen My Tongue to Sing Your Praise, Lord

June 2, 2009

Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Happy are those who fear the LORD, who greatly delight in God's commands….They shine through the darkness, a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and just. (Psalm 112:1, 4)

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech…. So Jesus said to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." (Mark 12:13, 17)


Holy Spirit, Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words beyond the power of speech. (from the alternative opening prayer for Mass on Pentecost Sunday)

Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips. Do not let my heart incline to evil, or yield to any sin. (From Psalm 141)


Jesus’ loving words cut through the self-serving tactic of those wishing to ensnare him. He takes the denarius and simply says that the world is limited but God is the God of all. He doesn’t preach resistance to an unjust tax levied by an oppressor. He doesn’t sermonize that being a good citizen is the way to happiness. Nor does he bother to denounce the Jewish officials. He simply reminds us that, as he has been saying “I am not of this world,” that our duties lie on two planes. But they are on the same coin – neither one is to be discarded.

Recently I was web-surfing and came across a site where the author declared up front and personal contempt and disdain of liberals who complain too much. It really brought me up short. First of all, as a liberal on some issues, I thought “You hate me? My goodness, do you know me?” But I was then offended and, frankly, hurt. What upset me the most is that this webmaster is Roman Catholic. I thought that this was my team.

And I want to make clear that I’m not bashing a self- described conservative. Not long ago, MSNBC’s Keith Obermann labeled former Vice President Dick Cheney as “The Worst Person in the World.” Now while I do not agree with most of what Mr. Cheney espouses, that does not make him rank with the genocide committed by the leaders of the Sudan, the oppressive devices employed by Myanmar’s military junta or the warlords of Sierra Leone who continue to kidnap children for soldiering and working in the mines.

What I am offended by is sloppy rhetoric and global condemnations. Denunciation of “a type” or of a person with whom I disagree is not the message of Christianity. Jesus did not condemn the Samaritans or Romans or even the adulteress but he did chastise behavior: “Go and sin no more.” Most often he taught love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Do we realize that our words, too, either convey charity or they do not? Do differences of opinions or approach cause us to see the other person as evil? Sinful? To be cast out? Do my words let God shine through the darkness as the psalmist sings or do I contribute to the darkness?


What do my words say about me? What do my words say about my relationship with Jesus? Henri Nouwen says: “Mercy comes from a compassionate heart; it comes from a desire to be an equal. Jesus didn't want to look down on us. He wanted to become one of us and feel deeply with us.” Next time that I am tempted to say or write something derogatory about another person, rather than more specifically refuse to condone her/his actions, may I first pray: “Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips. Do not let my heart incline to evil, or yield to any sin.”

No comments: