March 3, Speech: a Sunday Scriptures blog

Do you like to read the advice columns or self-help columns in the newspaper? Parts of some Old Testament books called “wisdom literature” sound a little like them. These biblical writings give prosaic advice for ethical living in daily life. “Wisdom literature” was written in the centuries just before Jesus’ time. Jesus would have known this kind of writing, and in the Gospel passage today, his words echo and imitate the pithy sayings of experiential wisdom literature. (Eventually the wisdom literature books were eliminated by the Jews from their inspired writings, but these books remained in the Greek Old Testament, the basis for our Catholic Bible. These books are not considered inspired by Protestants who adopted the Jewish Old Testament during the Reformation.)

Our first reading in this coming 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time is from one of the books of “wisdom literature,” Sirach 27:4-7. This passage has a coincidental special relevance for us U.S. people today as we debate about “fake news.” The reading is about discerning when a person is speaking the truth. We are told by Sirach that a person’s speech reveals the “bent of one’s mind,” and reveals their faults. And we are told that we cannot really know a person until we hear them speak.

Speech is a precious human ability, but often we use it in ways that are not loving. Our speech may not qualify as fake news, but sometimes it is disrespectful, angry, judgmental, sarcastic, domineering, disaffirming, dismissive, lacking in compassion. And perhaps worst of all, sometimes we give people the silent treatment. Lent begins this week. It might be helpful to make a Lenten resolution to try to change bad speech habits. I know I have them!

– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia

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