"Gift of gab" exposed
A reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Daniel Torchia
“Get up, go to Nineveh.” “Come follow me.” The readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are short, clear, direct, and compelling. Short of the Incarnation or a big hug from my great aunt, I can’t think of a better example of communication. It brings to mind and contrasts effectively with a curse I’ve been grappling with for years: the "gift of gab", a facetious misnomer if there ever was one.
Gabbing my way through life
I don’t know how or why it started, but I’ve honed it for decades. I worry it’s my predominant character trait in relationships at work, among friends and acquaintances – and even at home. I’m an explosion of words, quick to opine. Long before reviewing this Sunday’s readings, I have known it’s a big Achilles heel and a significant force behind much of my all-too-oft visible vice, sin, and brokenness. Thanks to my work and position, I’ve rationalized opining and gabbing as an important part of my profession and my responsibilities. Many of my colleagues have heard me say this creative little zinger: “I’m paid to opine.”
A distraction from the essential
In the life of Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son incarnate, we have the words and direction needed to receive it all: fulfilment, mission, joy, redemption, salvation, and life in abundance. In the first reading from this weekend’s texts, we see how God repeats his message to Jonah: “The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah a second time.” Many times we sense a direction from God over and over in our hearts and yet remain slow to obey. I’m certain my verbosity has obstructed me from receiving important nudges from God and drawn me away from effective discipleship. After all, talking is a sure-fire way to stifle silence – an important condition to dialogue with God. Equally disturbing, when I look back over the years, I can see myself listening only partially to people – waiting, instead, with bated breath to retort, refute, or make sure my opinions are delivered, re-articulated, or given the final word.
A sure path toward division
Over the years, through needless words, I’ve likely hurt others. Christ’s manner and messages build up people, helping them in their own quest for truth and holiness. While I may have shared inspiring and life-giving commentary at times, chances are that I’ve muddied things with a word that divides, judges, belittles, or hurts. All it takes is a wrong word to do damage to one’s heart. As I say and repeat in media training workshops, a verbal buffet is a sure way to give a journalist the wrong words, message, or story. And that is sure to quickly become the heart of the story. A subtle nudge, something inside of me pushes me to fall into this trap of babble, over and over again. For the sake of expediency, I’ll call it pride: a sense that the world revolves around me (a falser statement you’d be hard-pressed to find). I’m embarrassed just writing it.
This Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, with its short and compelling readings, is the right time to strengthen my resolve to embark on a new path – one of greater silence, restraint in wordsmithing, and a renewed commitment toward the obedience we see in Jonah, Peter, and Andrew. It’s worth re-reading these texts and reminding myself that I am called to imitate Christ, not to act as his speechwriter. Jesus calls me to witness to his Gospel to all those he places in my life, and, as Saint Francis of Assisi said, I’ll use words only when I really have to. And when I do, I’ll be more careful to be brief.
The readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Daniel Torchia, APR, is a Communications consultant who lives with his wife and children in Uxbridge, Ontario. From 2009 to 2011 he worked at Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation.