Lord, Cleanse My Lips

(Homily for Twenty-Third Ordinary Sunday, Year B)

In the most recent issue of Homiletics and Pastoral Review, Fr. Michael Orsi has a helpful article titled, “Orthodox Catholics sometimes hurt the cause.” He notes that while liberals often unite to promote a common agenda, conservatives will sometimes take an all-or-nothing approach – and in the process wind up dividing into bitter factions.

He mentions how complex issues such as biblical interpretation, pro-life strategies, capital punishment and the validity of ordaining men with homosexual orientation can provoke violent disagreements. And smaller issues can also divide. He tells of a parish where home school families split into non-speaking camps over the showing of the cartoon, “Shrek.”

Fr. Orsi offers some suggestions to avoid fracturing the cause of loyal and orthodox Catholics. First and foremost, we need to know what is official Church teaching and what are matters for discussion or debate. He recommended several documents, including of course the Catechism. He also mentions the importance of discussing concerns with ones pastor or with some other informed person. In addition, we have good resources available today, such as New Advent and Catholic Answers (which even has a number people can call for sensitive questions).

In today’s Gospel Jesus touches the ears of a deaf man and says, Ephphatha, that is “be opened.” It must have been wonderful to hear sounds – children, birds, above all the voice of Jesus himself. But it also must have been a lot of work to begin learning the meaning of so many words – and to distinguish that which requires attention from that which one can ignore.

Likewise, when Jesus touches you or me, it does not mean that all of a sudden we know everything and can start correcting others. No, that is when we must begin in earnest to listen to him – read the Bible, Catechism, Vatican II documents and other sources of his teaching.

Some young priests have become discouraged – not so much by attacks from “liberals” (if a person swims against the culture, he expects that) but by criticisms from those he thought were his allies. Often the criticisms were ill founded or expressed in harsh, judgmental manner.

Only after we have listened to Jesus, should we speak. And we need to ask him to touch our lips before we do. Prior to proclaiming the Gospel, the priest prays quietly: “Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips that I may worthily proclaim your Gospel.” That’s a prayer we could all say before attempting to speak on behalf of the Lord.

At the conclusion of the Gospel, before giving the homily, he says (inaudibly) “May the words of the Gospel wipe away our sin.” Always essential to recognize ones own sin – and that our goal is not to condemn, but to offer liberation from sin.

Like you, I would be a fool if I did not recognize I need correction. But how and when is it helpful? Once I was doing something in the parish which I thought was OK. A man approached me at a moment when I did not have a hundred distractions, expressed his concern in a kindly manner and showed me an appropriate document. While I was not happy to be corrected (who is?) I appreciated his thoroughness, thought about what he said and made an appropriate change. It also helped that I knew him as a prayerful man who cares about me and loves the parish.

Isaiah prophesied,

The ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing. (35:5f.)

May Christ open our ears and cleanse our lips that we might hear his word and gently speak it to others.*

************

*At the beginning of a new school year we should ask the Lord to cleanse our lips regarding gossip. It perhaps has not been my biggest sin, but it is one for which I feel most remorse. Once I made an off-hand comment (I did not mean it maliciously) but a couple months later, I realized it had influenced someones opinion of another person. I tried to undo some of the damage, but like Philip Neri noted, gossip is like opening a down pillow on a windy day. You can pick up a few of the feathers, but most fly out of ones control. In a parish gossip does great damage, especially to the faith of young people.

Unfortunately we live in a society where distortion rules the day. In August, CBS Evening News had a segment which smeared the pope and the Vatican. Jeff Cavins attempted to correct it, but when CBS interviewed him, by creative editing they made it appear he supported what they said! The National Catholic Register did an exposé, but unfortunately they reach only thirty or forty thousand households, while CBS reaches millions. Once again, I recommend Bernard Goldberg's book Bias to understand how the media often distorts the news.

The fact that priests and bishops have committed serious mistakes - and horrible sins - does not justify such distortions in the national news - or the parish gossip vine.

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Homilies for 23rd Sunday, Year B):

2012: A Work of Liberation
2009: Hearing his Voice
2006: The March of Folly
2003: Lord, Cleanse My Lips
2000: What is Friendship with Jesus?
1997: Real vs. Imaginary Jesus

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Proper Postures at Mass, Fr. Nagel's Homily on Same Sex Marriages, Death of Fr. Jack Branche)

Announcements

Russell Shaw on the State of the Church in U.S.

The Women of Roe v. Wade (by Mary Ann Glendon)

Some reflections on Paul Hill's Execution "in that same time period, there were 337 incidents of deadly or extreme violence committed by supporters of legal abortion against those acting on pro-life convictions...."

Full text homily of Bishop Jenky at Erin Feis "the pervasive culture of 21st century America is basically at war with Jesus Christ and living in direct opposition to the truth of his Gospel and is aggressively hostile to his Church...Following the lead of the great masters of religious suspicion -- Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche -- they promote the idea that this world has no intrinsic purpose or any significant meaning."

Pictures from Visit to Peru (August 2003)

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(August 2009)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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