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THE POWER OF SPEECH

Father Francis's picture
Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

James 3:1-10 & Mk. 9:2-13

St. James is eminently the practical writer of the New Testament. In today's reading he strikes at the heart of a basic human problem the misuse of the great gift of speech. He makes a marvelous comparison in which he likens the tongue to a rudder which, despite its smallness, controls the course of a mighty ship. We should never underestimate the gift of speech.

Just think what a few words can achieve. A person at the Space Control Centre in Houston can say just four words, "All systems are 'go,' and a space rocket makes its way to land a man on the moon. A young couple say, "I do, "and their lives are completely changed. As they reach for and hope to find happiness. A single word can irreparably ruin the reputation of a person, or it can save someone from death.

We begin to appreciate the meaning of speech when we recognise that it is a sharing in the power of God. Just by God created the universe. Through the priest Jesus says, "This is my body... This is my blood," and bread and wine are wondrously transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Our human words are but a faint reflection of the magnificence of God's word. The power of speech sets us apart from the animals and gives us a share in the divinity.

The words we speak can make such a difference to people's lives. A friendly remark can brighten someone's day. The word 'sorry' can save a marriage. The word 'please' can make others do anything for you. The word 'thanks' can convey to a person that their efforts are appreciated. Words of encouragement and praise can build up someone's confidence, whereas constant criticism and fault finding can destroy it. If you have ever been the target for spiteful, jealous gossip you will know how painful it can be. Yet one kind word can warm the heart and give you strength.

In the story of the Transfiguration we see words play an important part. When the three apostles witnessed Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah he should have been silent lost in wonder at the sight instead he did not know what to say and blurted out his amazement by wanting to build three tents so that he could hold on to this happy occasion forever. Then we hear the awesome words of God the Father, making Peter realise the uniqueness of the occasion and assuring him and the other two apostles of the relation of Jesus to Him.

Words can play be such a powerful tool in our lives. Lord Jesus we thank You for the gift of speech. May we always use it profitably.

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