Chapter Ten of Book One of Imitation (1,10) regards “Of Avoiding Useless Words,” which encourages silence habitually and edifying, or at worst, indifferent, speech, if necessary. (Proverbs is loaded with sayings on the tongue — see here).
In today’s very brief Gospel reading (Mk 3:31-35), Jesus’ mother and other relatives come to the very popular preacher’s house in hopes of meeting with Him, only to find a large crowd filling the place (and, I suspect, spilled out to the surrounding area). When the crowd gives Him word of His family’s arrival, He responds with the words in the headline.
Some try to convince us that Jesus is somehow being dismissive of His mother with these words. Nothing could be further from the truth! Mary is the exemplar of following the will of God to the letter, saying fiat! in her every thought, word, and deed all the days of her life. Jesus implores His followers to imitate that pattern. As Kempis advises, we are to “watch and pray” constantly that we may bear fruit for the Lord. This reminds us of Jesus’ admonition during his agony in the garden:
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)
For many of us, the spirit is indeed willing. But, how often do we think, like St. Paul,
What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want [i.e., the good], but I do what I hate. (Rom 7:15)
We wish that we could just will away our sinful habits at the snap of our fingers. It is then that we come to realize our own weakness and our need for the free gift of grace. Improvement requires constant prayer, the sacraments (the ordinary means of grace), and perseverance. It has been said, and we can relate, that grace does not necessarily make virtuous living easy, but it does make it possible.
We are called to bear fruit by seeking the will of God and following it. May we do so in abundance for our sake and for the sake of all whom we encounter.