12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 25, 2017
Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm
Magdalen Mission, 9:00 and 11:00am
This morning, I want to talk about encouragement – the importance of encouraging one another. But first, I want to explain why I am reflecting on this.
Killing the Spirit
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us to be afraid of those who can kill the spirit.
And you know, it’s true. Our spirit can be killed.
Sometimes on sports teams, the coach is always on the back of the players – maybe kids – for every dropped ball or missed point and never gives them any praise. This can kill the spirit of the players.
Sometimes this happens on work teams where the boss or leader is always pressing for better results and never affirms what’s been done. And this can kill the spirit of the employess.
Sometimes at home a husband or wife always picks away at little things and never recognizes a good job with the gardening or with cleaning the house or stuff like that. And this can kill the spirit.
A Study on Encouragement
Recently, an organization called the Gotman Institute did a study.
They focused on the ratio of words of criticism to words of encouragement that the average person hears. And they found that the ratio is 6 to 1.
So, the average person hears 6 words of criticism for every 1 word of encouragement. I mean – isn’t that unfortunate?
That creates a negative environment. It explains why some workplaces and teams and relationships are toxic.
These words tear down self-esteem. To go back to Jesus, this heavy ratio of critical to encouraging words can kill the spirit.
Two truths about Encouragement
There are two truths about encouragment that we need to know.
First, everyone needs encouragement. I don’t care who you are, how successful or intelligent or attractive or popular or talented you seem – we all need encouragement.
And the second truth is that everyone can be an encourager. Regardless of our age or job or position or personality type, we can be encouragers of others.
Two Ways to Encourage
There are also two things to keep in mind in our encouraging of one another.
First, everyone wants to know that they are not alone. Sometimes we feel alone and that we are the only person in the world dealing with a certain issue.
Maybe it is a mother or father who are not sure if they are doing the right thing with their kids. Or maybe our finances are tight and we cannot take the kind of vacation that the neighbors are taking.
Or maybe a teen or young adult is struggling with an identity issue. In these and many other situations, we can feel very alone.
So it is important for each of us to be alert to one another, to listen and to let those around us know that we understand or that we are dealing with the same issue or that we’ve got other stuff we are dealing with. Our sharing and our vulnerability like this is a way of encouragement because it helps others know that they are not alone.
And the second thing to bear in mind about encouragement is that everyone wants to know that they’ve got what it takes. So we need to affirm the strengths of one another.
Maybe that’s all they need to hear to apply for nursing school or whatever it is. Maybe that’s what someone needs to redirect them in a way that will really suit their God-given abilities.
We need to let others know that we believe in them. We encourage them by letting them know that they’ve got what it takes.
Right in today’s gospel, Jesus encourages us.
Jesus knows that things will be tough at times and that we will need some encouragment. So he uses the example of a small bird, a sparrow and says that God watches over and knows every take-off and landing even of a sparrow.
If God does that for a sparrow, won’t he do much more for us? After all, we count for so much more.
And then Jesus says that God is so close to us and knows us so well that even the hairs on our head are counted. That may not be too difficult for God to do with some of us guys, but I think you get the point.
Jesus is encouraging us because he knows we all need encouragement. And he wants us to be encouragers just as he is.