“From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” These words of Christ in this weekend’s Gospel represent an excellent point of reflection for us as we approach the beginning of Lent, and consider how we are to observe this penitential season. Ahead of any good time of penance, we must know where it is that we stand before God, what is the true state and health of our souls. So often, it can feel like a mystery to us. The temptation is either to be confident in the good sentiments and intentions we have, assuring ourselves that we are basically good people, or to fear our shortcomings, imagining that they enervate or obscure any good that we do. While the exact truth of our inner life might remain mysterious to us, and we will always have to resist both presumption of our own goodness or despair at our sins, walking the right path of humbly accepting the love of the good God, we do have this saying of Jesus to guide us in our self-examination. “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
If we wish to know where we stand, and what it is that would bring us closer to Christ’s heart, an excellent first step is to examine our speech. What do we talk about? What do we want to spread to other people? Where do we go when we have to carry on a conversation? When we are not talking about a task immediate before us, what subjects find their way to our lips? Whether we can directly see where our hearts find their rest, our own words will tell us. Perhaps our conversation is full of worry and concern. Perhaps our words are often impatient and angry, full of complaint and offense. Perhaps we turn to reflect on the past, bringing others into events that are no longer with us. Perhaps we often speak about plans and ideas, filling conversations with futures that don’t yet exist. Perhaps our speech turns again and again back to our own selves, rarely focusing on the lives and experiences of others. But then again, perhaps our conversations are peaceful, filled with encouragement, reminders to hope, reasons for the true joy that can be found in Christian truth. We may produce words full of love and peace, urging other on towards the good. Whatever we find tells us what fills our hearts in secret.
This is true also of Christ. What fills His heart emerges in His words. How often He talks about the Father! How often in His parables He talks about the Kingdom, the great feast, the peaceful vineyard, the pearl of great price, the tree full of life! His heart is filled with the vision of heaven, the knowledge of Himself as the Son loved eternally by the Father in the Holy Spirit, and this comes forth in His speech. Even His words to us focus on preparing us to become capable of that beautiful life, the focus of His heart.
Wherever we see distance between our speech and the speech of Jesus, or rather, wherever our speech shows us the distance between our heart and His, we know where we can go to work this Lent. We can choose to set aside whatever distracts us from what is most important, to work on forgiving and loving those who are most difficult for us, we can focus our thoughts too on the life that is to come, the Kingdom of Heaven where the Father wishes to show us the full depth of His love and goodness. If we do so, changing what fills our hearts this Lent, then our speech too will convey that good news to all around us and draw every heart closer to the one who alone satisfies.