“Master of words,” that was how my friend described somebody he admired. We all admire people who can weave words so fluidly that they speak convincingly, effortlessly, and effectively. Government people sound so powerful. Business people sound so concerned. Church people sound so holy.  And we like that.
Jesus was someone who was never deceived by mere words. In today’s Gospel (Mk 8), he heard Peter declare his faith. Jesus seemed unenthusiastic at this reply. Later we know why. Peter seemed to revoke his earlier words when he rebuked Jesus’ own preaching about his suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus also rebuked Peter for not getting it right, for failing to understand.
It is really a good thing that God is not an admirer of words, not a “reader of tongues.”  Instead the Lord is a “reader of the heart.”  Not all words flow from the heart.  St. James in today’s second reading (James 2) challenges those who testify that they have faith by asking them “Where is your proof? Where are your works?” We can give the best speeches but at the same time ignore the hungry, the sad, the dying, the sick, the depressed, the needy people within our homes and in our communities. Our words then mean nothing!
Jesus was not known just as the great teacher, the sublime prophet, the efficient “talker.”  Jesus was known then and remembered today, for his heart, not for his tongue. He spoke, yes, but he also touched the dirty people with love. He preached, yes, but he also embraced the little children to bless them. He taught, yes, but he also healed the sick who kept following him. He explained mysteries, yes, but he also proved these mysteries by a love that was crucified and later, risen from the dead.
In Jesus, we see the matrimony of words and works. His words explained his works. His works prove the sincerity and truth of his words.
What about us? Many like to speak of their faith but ignore the needy. Many want to teach about God but remain far from God’s people. Many like to embrace slogans like “mercy” and “compassion” but have no heart for sinners and those who suffer.
Lord, bless my tongue that my words may flow from my heart. May my words become alive in the way I show love and unity with the people who need me today and everyday. Amen.