by Father Christopher Heanue
“Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” — Phil 1:27a
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of shallow conversations about the weather, about meals, about politics! The art of conversation — true conversation — seems to be absent from today’s world. Many people seem to prefer text messages or emails to talking on the phone or in person. Couples dine together with phone in hand and eyes cast downward. Children almost always seem preoccupied with an iPad or a smart phone. Meaningful communication between persons is so rare nowadays. Should we be surprised that our society seems to be crumbling around us?
One of the most beautiful aspects of the life of a priest is the ability to have real conversations. St. John Henry Newman chose as his motto as a cardinal: cor ad cor loquitor (“heart speaks to heart”). This is a variation on a phrase that St. Francis de Sales used in his Treatise on the Love of God. In true prayer, one’s heart is raised to the Heart of God. The same is true in authentic human conversation. The heart of one person speaks unto the heart of another.
In his letters, St. Paul speaks to the hearts of the members of the Christian communities. This Sunday, we hear some of the words that he wrote from prison to the Philippians. The Apostle goes right to the heart of the matter to speak, with vulnerability, about that which matters most: faith in Christ Jesus.
The Lord has given the Church many great communicators down through the centuries, from St. Paul, to St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine in the fourth century, to Venerable Fulton Sheen in the twentieth century, to Bishop Robert Barron in present day, to name only a few. These gifted communicators have been able to preach the Gospel through word and action. St. Francis of Assisi is reported to have said: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” Communication is not only about words; it is rooted in love and in action. Our conduct matters.
This Sunday’s Second Reading ends with only half of a verse. The full verse reads: “Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents … For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him. Yours is the same struggles as you saw in me and now hear about me.”
In this passage, St. Paul illustrates to the members of the early Church that they must communicate well in order to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind.” Without true communication, there would arise division and destruction.
Let us pray this week for the grace to become great communicators. May our hearts speak unto other hearts so that we too may stand firm and united in our families, our homes, and our Church. May we conduct ourselves in “ways worthy of the Gospel” so that in word and in deed we may give glory to God and lead others to know, love, and serve Him.
Readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20C-24, 27A Matthew 20:1-16A
Father Heanue is the administrator of Holy Child Jesus Church and manages the pastoral care of St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church, both located in Richmond Hill.