Friday, March 11 Read Ephesians 4:25-32
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32
The Power of Words
Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians during his two-year imprisonment in Rome. One of the themes is that of unity – that all Christians are one family in Jesus, and that they should act with love toward one another.
As I write this, it is the feast of the Solemnity of the Holy Family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the prototype and example of the nuclear Christian family. The Catholic nuns of my grade school years required us to always headline our homework papers with “JMJ” as a constant reminder of this powerful triumvirate. Yet even this stellar family had a few non-Hallmark moments.
Consider this exchange between Jesus and Mary after he’d been missing three days.
Mary: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Words were spoken that must have rankled Joseph and Mary’s hearts to the core. And yet those hearts remained united and loving to the end.
At the end of a school day when I arrived home with my nine siblings, the symbolic union of those three names quickly vaporized. We hurled barbed insults at each other over issues that were less real than imagined. “You got the last cookie.” “Those are my shoes.” “Mom said I could go first.”
I retain only a glimmer of those verbal brawls. What I remember and cherish is spending quality time with my wonderful siblings as adults (I never knew they could be so cool!). Serious health issues have already claimed the life of one very precious brother and threaten to take another. Nowadays, we fill our reunions with good food, happy memories and laughter. And almost always with kind words.
Words have such great power to bless or to wound. The ability to verbalize is an awesome privilege, one that can easily be abused. As Proverbs says: Reckless words pierce like a sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Following our Savior’s mandate in the simple yet profound Our Father, we should not only forgive the trespasses of our fellow humans, but think before speaking ourselves, lest we cause pain or anger to conquer us.
Joanne T. Ehrlich
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