gift of words

When I arrived at the Bishop Lyons Public Speaking competition on Sunday afternoon, Bishop Barry Jones had just celebrated Mass for the teams from our seven Catholic Colleges in the diocese of Christchurch. A number of people spoke with me to say how inspired they were by Bishop Barry’s homily. I am grateful to him for sending me his homily text.

Homily of Bishop Barry Jones, Fifth Sunday of Lent, at Bishop Lyons Public Speaking Competition.    3 May 2015

One thing I learned from visiting a marae is that one of the last things to happen, before the visitors leave, is a feast, a hakari.   The home people take great pride in providing overwhelming hospitality for their visitors, their guests, so much so that at times the tables are groaning with food of all kinds.

This weekend has been like that.   The groaning table has not been covered with dishes of food but rather with  words.   It has been a feast of words. Listen now to these words of a great thinker, setting out to describe communication between persons:

“The word which is in my heart, begins to be in your heart, without leaving mine.”

In this simple, yet profound sentence,  a great thinker set out to capture the mystery of communication between persons.   We cannot live without words, because human persons can only live fully when they are in relationships with other human persons.   We need words with which to think, and we need to share our thoughts with others.

Your weekend here in the various activities of the Bishop Lyons’ Shield has been all about words and language and putting ideas into words. I hope you go away from this competition with the clear understanding that words matter… Words enable us to utter ourselves, to give ourselves, to disclose ourselves to others.

When we do this, when we open our hearts to others so that we speak from the heart, we enter into communion with them….we meet one another as we really are.

Jesus is hinting at all this in the gospel today.  He says that he is the vine, and that we are branches attached to him, and drawing life from him.

Each one of us has a relationship with Jesus, which he has established. He does this when we begin to exist, and that relationship deepens when we are baptised.

Jesus wants us to live in communion with him. “ Make your home in me, as I make mine in you, “ he tells us. “ You cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me..”

Living in in communion with Jesus includes making time to have words with him, every day. Make time to pray.  Living in communion with him, making our home in him, also means listening to his words and putting them into action.

Words can wound people,  they can demolish their self confidence;  words can also be used to tell lies.   Don’t be like that.

Use the great gift of communication to encourage people, to show kindness, to speak the truth. To live in this way shows that you are living in communion with Jesus, that you are attached to Jesus, just as a branch is attached to a vine.

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