The Responsibility of Words


Reflecting on 2020 and the early happenings of 2021, a few words popped into my heart and mind. The more time I spend on social media and popular media, I feel more keenly the stinging, unsavory, or careless impact of words. As I scroll through the noise, words, words, and more words, whether spoken or written, reveal on a grander scale the damage words can inflict among secular and religious persons alike. The more I come to grips with the many ways I have failed by my tongue, whether words spoken or unspoken, written or unwritten, the more I recognize how carelessly our modern culture uses words much to the detriment and destruction of everyone. The Bible in various verses throughout the Old and New Testament identify and warn about the power of words. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who choose one shall eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) In the Letter to St. James, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.” (James 1:26)

If we pronounce being created anew in Christ, wouldn’t that also include what our tongues profess whether in jest or seriousness? I believe the Saints and holy persons of heroic virtue would agree, yes. When you delve into spiritual readings of our brother and sisters the Saints and other holy persons, a frequent underlying theme is the temporal and metaphysical value of silence and the necessity of self- mastery and discipline which includes the tongue. For many of us members of the Communion of Saints, self- mastery of the tongue will be a life-long earthly endeavor made possible by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to die to oneself. Mother Mary, Our Mediatrix, pure hearted and humble also desires to intercede on our behalf and provide an example of pure-heartedness and pure mouths. St. Joseph, our spiritual Father, models the importance of silence. He never speaks in the Gospels yet profoundly and intuitively does the will of God.

As I slowly delve into the mystical, private revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, I’m swept up in the mysterious, illuminating, and heartbreaking revelations she faithfully writes about in her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Her descriptions of the difficulties within her religious community mirrors the dysfunctions and difficulties of marriage and family life. Similar, if not the same, tendencies toward sin and temptations reside within the members of the religious community. The tongue, as in the secular and lay world, becomes a device for ill and evil. She writes:

How often do we consider if our tongues commit murder? Or that we will have to account for the usage of our tongue during our earthly existence? When I reflect on St. Faustina’s holy fear, I myself feel as though I too should tremble when faced with an account of my words. The very thought renders me speechless. Reflecting on years of the tongue’s effect on me, let alone the effects of my tongue on others, if I’m honest, words have hurt, killed, and maimed and inflicted physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual harm. “The mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips are a deadly snare.” (Proverbs 18:7)

St. Faustina’s Diary as revealed by Jesus illuminates the unfathomable and infinite Ocean of mercy available to even the direst, gravest of sinners. We must ask for this mercy. When this outpouring of Divine Mercy washes over us, we face a choice to grow and transform with that grace which should inspire heartfelt desire for action and change. For many of us, including myself, we need to fast from words whether written or spoken that draw us closer to Hell than Heaven. How we speak and write can became habitual and subconscious quagmire we hardly realize bogs us and others down leading away from light and into deeper darkness. When the temptation of the tongue arises, we should strive to embrace a moment of silence, prayer, and reflection before adding our words to the din of noise and realm of personal and communal harm. During this Season of Lent, Holy Family, help my words glorify God and His creation drawing myself and others closer to Heaven and grant me the wisdom to abstain from words that detract and degrade that glory.

May Divine Mercy create in us a clean heart, a clean mind, and a clean mouth. Amen.

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