Wednesday: Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Tobit 3:1-11a, 16-17a
As a kid I remember using the phrase, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me. What a load of stuff that was! Bruises and cuts heal a lot quicker than the emotional, psychological wounds we get from hateful people. I think the phrase should go, sticks and stones may break my bones but words can crush the spirit.
I remember getting into tussles when I was in school like a lot of school boys. It always seemed that I went home with a black eye and then had to explain to my parents why. That was painful! Facing mom after getting into trouble was never fun. And now as I am turning 40 I find that I don't remember the pain of a black eye but I can remember the pain caused by cruel words. The human tongue can be a vicious weapon.
Daily I will speak with people who are trying to move past very cruel and damaging words. The spiritual and psychological cuts that cruel words inflict are hard sometimes to recover from.
Our reading from Tobit today is a scene of two people who are suffering from being outcasts. Tobit and Sarah have been enduring relentless verbal attacks. These attacks have crushed their spirit and has led them to despair. They feel alone, unloved, depressed and hopeless. Their despair leads them to pray for death. I think many of us today can relate with, at some point, feeling so alone and unloved that not being becomes a consideration. That's scary. Too many people feel that way today.
As Christians, we are called to be messengers of God's love. Unfortunately, we don't do enough of proclaiming and practicing God's love. Everyday we see and hear verbal abuse in so many forms. Everything from outrageous road rage, yelling at one another over parking spaces, rudeness at the checkout lines, people taking private arguments out into the public arena, etc. We are bombarded by these verbal grenades. No wonder so many people are depressed and feel hopeless.
I think a good place to start is at the beginning. God is love. We are God's children. We are to mirror God's love. We are to express God's love to one another. A common penance I give at confession is for the individual to think of one person they have been uncharitable towards and pray for God to bless that person. It is hard to be angry with someone when one is praying for that person.
Yes we all get angry. Yes we all say things we shouldn't. Yes we all hurt other people's feelings. However, we have the obligation of making amends and living as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the chance to make things better by keeping our tongues under control. When we don't, we need to realize and accept that our hateful words can crush another person's spirit. We don't need sticks or stones in order to hurt one another since our tongues do a pretty good job. Let us strive to seek reconciliation so that no one needs to feel like Tobit or Sarah.
Sticks and stones may break our bones. But words? They can crush the spirit. Today, may we strive to keep our tongues under control so that God can speak a message of love through us all.