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Why the words we speak matter (especially after Communion)

IAN HOOTON / IHO / Science Photo Library
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Ever gossip or go off on an angry rant as you're leaving Mass? Don't just feel terrible about yourself -- here's what you can do.

Good sense makes a man slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
—Proverbs 19:11

With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this ought not to be so.
—James 3:9-10

When I started this project back in January, I asked a friend if she’d be willing to make images for each verse. My plan was to make them my home screen each week and work on memorizing each passage, but I wasn’t terribly concerned about what they looked like.

This week, I looked over the images and was taken aback. What on earth does this passage from Proverbs have to do with the Eucharist? How random. Should I email my friend and ask her to redo it?

And then I took the verse to prayer and saw exactly what the Lord was trying to say. We’re looking upon a crucified God who continues to hand his body over to the ones who kill him. He doesn’t demand vengeance or hold our debts over our heads; he looks past our faults and offers himself in love. The Eucharist is the ultimate antidote for those who, like me, find “slow to anger” to be one of God’s most unattainable characteristics.

Of course it’s good sense not to be furious at the people who are in my way at the airport. After all, what good does it do? I’ve been choleric long enough to know how to talk myself down from irrational fits of anger. But what about when it’s deserved? How on earth do I forgive when someone’s hurt me deliberately?

The model Christ gives us doesn’t teach us to be passive-aggressive or wait for them to get their comeuppance. He calls us to turn the other cheek and then he does it. He offers his life for his killers and offers his body every day to millions of sinners. His response is love.

Read more: You hold the salvation of the world in your hands, carry it in cells and sinews…

James reminds us that we were made to praise the Lord. But we who speak so eloquently about God’s goodness turn around and use that same tongue, the tongue on which we just received his Body and Blood, to lambaste the fool who can’t figure out how to turn out of the church parking lot. Our tongues have been consecrated by the Blood of Christ and still we profane them by using them for gossip and rage and judgment. “My brothers, this ought not to be so.”

So what? I mean, obviously we should stop being terrible. And Jesus’ sacrifice reminds us that we should really stop being terrible. And receiving the Eucharist when we’re terrible makes us feel more terrible. None of this is necessarily fruitful. So what do we do?

This is not an invitation to discouragement and self-loathing; those are not of God. Instead, if you (like me) are realizing just how compartmentalized your life is when it comes to sins of the tongue or even silently indulged sins of the spirit, acknowledge your sin and confess it.

But then remember this connection between the words you speak and the Eucharist you receive. During the penitential rite at each Mass, ask forgiveness for specific ways you’ve spoken in anger or pride or judgment. Then when you receive the Lord, hold his merciful Body in your mouth and ask him to consecrate your tongue to his service. When you fall, don’t chalk it up to “being only human,” remember that you have been set apart and called to greatness. You have been consecrated to the service of the Lord. Beg his mercy and offer him your life, your heart, your speech once more. Then shoulder your cross again and give yourself over in love to the ones who least deserve it. You’ve received far more mercy than you could ever extend, but it certainly can’t hurt to try.

 

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