Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sept. 4, 2011: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Click to hear audio homily
There is a saying, “A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.” You may also have heard the saying, “The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever.” How does this play out in a real-life situation? There is a TV show that demonstrates both of these sayings, the show "Say Yes to the Dress." Future brides-to-be stroll through an expensive bridal showroom, and the bridal consultant suggests a dress. The brides typically say, while looking directly into the camera, "This is my dress, and I like how it looks on me." The consultants seem to always agree with what the brides have to say. However, the moment the bride steps out from the mirrors to model the dress for the family and friends, reality sets in. First it begins with looks of disapproval from the family and friends. Then one by one, honest comments are made, such as, "It makes you look too big," "You look like a Big Bird," "How much is that dress?" The battle of wills begins, and the tears begin to flow. If the family keeps mum about the dress, the bride may end up with an expensive gown that costs $7,000 that she does not need. As the saying goes, "The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever." That $7,000 may hurt for a long time if the truth is not spoken.

To say what's on our mind, or not to say it---it's always difficult to know when to be truthful or when to zip it. Jesus gave us a guideline, "How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42)  So Jesus instructs us to be humble, and to look at our own self before judging other's faults. Yet in today's First Reading and in the Gospel, a different instruction seems to be given. Lord tells prophet Ezekiel, "If I tell the wicked, 'O wicked one, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death." In the Gospel today, Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Here Jesus is instructing us that we have the responsibility to speak the truth, albeit discretely with charity. So should we speak the truth or refrain from it?

This past Sunday, as I was leaving an intensive care unit after anointing a patient, a lady asked me if I would anoint her husband. Immediately she began to tear up as she told me that he struggled with addictions throughout more than 15 years of their marriage. She had repeatedly asked him to turn his life around but he had not listened to her. She went on to tell me that she had recently left him because his behavior from the addiction was affecting their young daughter as well. She said the housekeeper found him overdosed, and now he was in a coma with his organs shutting down. As we stood beside his ICU bed, I put on my stole and told the wife that even in a coma a person can still hear. I said to him, "If you can respond to my questions, please twitch your eyelids. Are you sorry for all your sins?" There was a recognizable twitch. "Do you love Jesus?" A twitch. "Are you sorry for causing hurts in your loved one, especially your wife?" A twitch. His wife began to cry.

There are times when we must not fear speaking the truth, because the truth is from the Father. That which comes from Heavenly Father must be spoken to all. If some suffer the consequence of their poor choices despite hearing the truth, then so be it. But if we who know the truth fail to speak the truth, then we are responsible, and then we will suffer. We risk the esteem of others when we speak the truth. We all have a responsibility to help each other remain united with the Father, and to reach their eternal home, forever in the presence of the Father. We must know that when we join our voices with brother and sister, father and mother and neighbor, Our Lord is there and Our Father will hear our prayer.

Some brides in the show "Say Yes to the Dress" leave the store in tears with a dress that they do not like. Thanks to her truthful family and friends, she is leaving with her pride bruised but with a dress that fits her needs.