One of the most powerful weapons that
we have at our disposal is between the two layers of our teeth-- namely, our
tongue. The words that issue from our
mouth have an incredible power for good or for evil.
Pope Francis constantly is reminding
us of the importance of vigilance over our whole being; and this includes our
tongue and the words that come forth. Time and time again Pope Francis exhorts
us to avoid gossip, back-biting, and speech that damages others.
Saint James reminds us: “We should be
slow to speak and quick to listen.” In James chapter three—a must to read with
respect to the control of our tongue—Saint James in a clear and challenging
fashion outlines the dangers of the tongue and the damage that this small
instrument can do. Man can tame all
animals, but not the tongue. It is small, but like a little spark that can
start a huge fire, so the tongue being small can do irreparable damage. In Southern California, there is always the
danger of a fire that can cut across thousands of acres of land, devastate
homes, towns, villages and kill people. Often this huge fire started with a
match stick, a cigarette butt or some insignificant thing that started the
Jesus, who is the Logos—the Word of
God made flesh—likewise warns us of the importance of the tongue, speech, and a
reminder for the Day of Judgment! The Lord Himself says: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaks.” Once again, with respect to our Final Judgment Jesus warns us: “Every
word that comes out of our heart will be judged.” He also encourages us not to
waste words, but to be quick and to the point when it is possible: “Let your
language, be “yes” and “yes” or “no” and “no”; the rest comes from the evil
LENT: SEASON OF CONVERSION. The Season of Lent is a time for conversion
of life; this also includes conversion of the way we speak. The three traditional ways to attain to true
conversion of heart and life are: 1) prayer, 2) almsgiving, 3) Fasting.
True, one can and should fast from
food, especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Nonetheless, this is not
exhaustive! Fasting can be done in many
other ways. For example, fasting of the
eyes from harmful TV programs, fasting from laziness at work, fasting from
being overly critical and judgmental in our hearts.
Still there is another form of
fasting: fasting of the tongue, fasting in speech, fasting from offending
others with our words. Why not undertake this on your Lenten journey as you
head to the Cross on Good Friday, with your hearts joyfully awaiting the Risen
Lord Jesus the day of the Resurrection?
Indeed this practice could result in
promoting harmony in your home with your family members, peace in your
relations at work, and charity towards all people you meet!
The following are two short but
powerful supports to help us carry out successfully a Program of fasting in our
I. PENTECOST EXPERIENCE AND SPEECH! The Apostles during the Public
life of Jesus made many mistakes in word and deed. However, they experienced one
transforming event—it was Pentecost.
The twelve Apostles spent nine days and nine nights in prayer with the
Blessed Virgin Mary and boom!!! There was an explosion of grace. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in
tongues of fire. Emphasize the word tongues! Then they were endowed with the ability—with
their own tongues—to preach the Word of God powerfully and convert countless
souls. The message and its meaning? Simple!
If our speech is to be edifying and sanctifying, then we must be purified,
converted and sanctified by the fire of the Holy Spirit. All of us must have
and experience a daily Pentecost
experience; we all must invoke the Holy Spirit on a daily basis so that He will
guide our minds, our hearts and the words that usher forth from our mouths!
“Come Holy Spirit, come, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
II. GOLDEN RULE AND SPEECH! Every person on earth can
understand the Golden Rule given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “Do
to others what you would like them to do to you.” Everybody responds positively
towards a kind word, friendly smile, and charitable gesture. Why not apply the Golden Rule of Jesus to how
we will speak to others. A bitter or sarcastic word can leave irreparable
wounds in the soul. On the contrary, a kind word motivated by a pure and loving
heart can lift somebody out of the pits of desolation! Saint Bernard, in one of his edifying
homilies, reminds us of three rules to apply to our speech: 1) Speak to accuse
ourselves of our own failures (great way to do this is a good confession!!!);
2) Speak to praise God. Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises in
the meditation Principle and Foundation reminds us as to why we are here on
earth: “To praise God, reverence God, serve God and then to save our
souls…”(Spiritual Exercises text # 23); 3) Finally, St. Bernard asserts that we
should speak so as to edify our neighbor. The word "edify"
technically means “To build up”. Our
words should serve to build up our neighbor. Today the world has been inundated
by a Tsunami of gossip, criticism, negativism, sarcasm and irony—not to mention
lies and slander! We must counteract negative and poisonous speech by using our
tongue to lift others closer to God who is in heaven. We should never forget that God’s ear is
keenly attentive to every word, letter, syllable that issues forth from our
The Word of God reminds us that he
who does not control his speech is not on the highway to holiness. However, the
man who controls his tongue is being led by the Holy Spirit and is following
the pathway to heaven—the narrow path that Jesus taught us!
In conclusion, let us turn to the
Blessed Virgin Mary, who spoke only seven times in the Gospels that we would
learn the art of fasting in many ways. However, especially in the Holy Season
of Lent, let us fast from all words that could offend others and God who is
offended when we offend others with our speech. Let us learn to praise God,
with Mary, with our words and with our lives: “My soul proclaims the greatness
of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Let us praise God, with
Our Lady, in time and forever in heaven!