So begins the beautiful prologue to St. John’s Gospel. “The Word” is an important concept in Greek philosophy and has become an even more dynamic and important concept in our theology. Jesus is the Word of God, the full, complete, authentic expression of the God the Father. It is through the Word that all that is has come to be and abides in being. “God said “Let there be light!” and there was light” (Ex 1:3). God creates by speaking. Each of us, as creatures of God, are God’s words as well. God calls us into being at every instant.
So theologically, words and speech are very important for us. Our main acts of worship are made up primarily of words, either sung or spoken. We also know in our human relationships that words are very significant. Who has never uttered a word that almost instantly you wish you take back? Who has never longed for a word from a parent or spouse or loved one? Words build up or they tear down. Words cut or they heal. Words encourage or they burden. Words speak the truth or they spread lies.
Words are incredibly powerful. Jesus, with no armies or treasures, but with wonderful words and profound teaching initiated the Kingdom of God and changed all of history. Hitler, with words of hate and violence, plunged the world into destruction and death, all with the power of words. Words are incredibly powerful.
We are now living in contentious times. We have conflicts over politics in our nation, we have conflicts in our Church, and we may have conflicts in our school, workplace, neighborhood and even our family. In this kind of situation it is very important that we pay attention to our words. The model of discourse our political leaders on the national level are providing to us is not helpful. In fact it is a downright disgrace. We should not follow the example of the politicians and the news media. We can, and must, do better than that in our own speech. As followers of Jesus we have much better examples. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, put it this way: “Never let evil talk pass you lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them” (4:29).
Here at St. Austin we are blessed with great diversity: ethnic diversity, people from all over the country and the world, all kinds of people and so on. We also have great political diversity in this parish. There are members of our community who work in the State Government administration and are strongly Republican. We have members of our community from the University community who are strongly Democratic. Our parish includes a spectrum from very conservative to very liberal, from very red to very blue. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING!!! Indeed, it is a blessing, especially if we can model that we can all respect each other in Christ and work together. But we all need to hold ourselves accountable for what we say.
Sometimes the best words are words that are not spoken. There is still wisdom in the old saying, “Silence is golden.” Or as Abraham Lincoln put it: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Be careful what you say. Because words matter.