In an age of empty chatter, where people tweet their meaningless activities to a worldwide audience, where politicians equivocate, shameless in their lies, and where words like justice, love and even God are cheapened by our human pride and arrogance, we forget that words have power.
Instead, we mistrust one another and politely settle for a superficial life of passing pleasantries, never allowing ourselves to risk the anguish of real living. We distract ourselves with activities, telling ourselves that we are too busy, too overworked to notice the needs of another. Words are powerful, for they can weave a web of lies that trap us and hold us back from being truly free. The Serpent's great lie that tricked our first parents tricks us even now. Our tower of Babel is the arrogant boast that we are masters of the universe, that science and human ingenuity can control the world.
But even in our boasting we sense that something has gone horribly wrong. We sense that there are eternal words pregnant with meaning, laden with spirit and life. We long to hear them, to have them ring in our ears and shatter the shackles of our lies. The 5,000 who made the journey with Ezra from captivity to freedom knew in that pilgrimage the sweet sound of truth, they knew the power of God's word piercing their hearts, making them weep for his law, washing away the lies that held them back.
How much more did those centuries later who heard the voice of a young man reading from the scroll, want freedom? What power was unleashed when Christ read the prophet's text? What made his audience fix their gaze on him, attentive to his every word? What makes us, even now, strain against the din of our modern age, to hear the whispered words of that Galilean preacher?
Our hearts are no different today from those who wept with Ezra, or those who upon hearing Christ, sensed a new moment. We long to weep and in our weeping wash away the lies that imprison us. We wait but our words fall short, they only scratch at the reality buried behind them, so faith must lead us on to the living Word's.
St Paul sensed this reality, this consoling Gospel, and although his words at first seem mundane, they speak to us of a reality that breaks the chains of self-centered isolation and draws us into relation with one another. Listen without distraction! By Baptism and the Eucharist that we share, the Body of Christ speaks of our solidarity, our call to play an integral part in one another's lives. It is the lie of this age that tells us that I am my own master, that the ego is absolute. We will never be free, never find true happiness locked as we are in the isolation of our self-absorption. No matter how many gadgets we have or how much we tell ourselves that we are socially networked, it is all a lie if we fail to be the mystical Body of Christ. Community and communion complete us, incorporate us into the Body of Christ.
Paul struggled to find a way to help us realize that our lives each play a unique role in the Body. He knew that we understand ourselves not in isolation but in relation with one another. We all participate in Christ, we all manifest God's call, God's Word made flesh dwelling among us. It shatters our deceptions and sets us into the drama of God's saving act in history. By the waters of Baptism we were given our Christian names and given a share in the divine name itself.
Words do have power to heal us, to set us free, to restore our sight, to give us comfort, if we but hear the Master's voice. Listen. Put away your earbuds, turn off the noise, listen with an inner stillness and you will hear the Word of everlasting life. This mysterious Body is made real in our Eucharistic 'Amen,' a word that bids us to become what we receive. The power of the prophetic word hits us even today amid earthquakes and wars, amid poverty and neglect. Do you hear it? Does it speak to your soul and call you into caring? For therein is its power, our being the Body of Christ.