This morning, the priest in my church delivered an interesting sermon during the Sunday service on the paradox and ambivalence of God’s precious gift for humanity- the flexible and twisting tongue.
He narrated the story of a woman who approached a saint to find out the cause of her poor spiritual progress. The saint, without any hesitation, told her that the main culprit was the `little things’ in her life. And those little things were her little thoughts- thousands or millions of seemingly innocent thoughts floating in and out of her mind daily. These little thoughts are similar to the thousands of tiny strands that the Lilliputians used to tie Gulliver to the ground. Yes, we are often held down by the uncountable thoughts in our minds especially those little toxic little thoughts that bubble onto the surface and find expression through our little tongues in the form of gossips. The priest continued to remind us that most of us may not be aware of the potential damage of the little bits of gossips that we say about our `neighbor’. But once the gossips are out of our mouths, we can’t recover them. Or what the Muslims like to compare gossips to the feathers that we cast in the wind that will quickly carry them all over the place. Once out, gossips are impossible to retract. And the gossips can inflict untold and immeasurable damage to the victims and their families for years to come. The priest quoted St. James as describing the tongue as the most poisonous part of our body that is capable of spitting out as much poison as the King cobra! In our modern world, the fast way to spread any information or news is wrap it in the form of gossip which we can send through the social media (via Twitter or Facebook).
God with his sense of humor, likes to test us in the way we use our various important organs of our body. He gives us hands to test find out how often we use our hands to help our needy neighbors or hold them up when they fall down. Or if we may abuse our legs which we use to kick our fallen neighbors when they are down!
God gives us two ears to hear all kinds of things about our neighbors- the good, the bad and the ugly. He likes to test our power of discernment and our wisdom sense whether we choose to listen to the good or the bad things about our neighbors. Unfortunately most of us choose to listen to the bad things and worse still, believe them and pass them on as gossips to amuse ourselves at the expense of our poor neighbors.
God gives everyone of us a heart to nurture it into a good heart or a bad heart. A good heart is free of all kinds of mind chatter, hate, envy, anger, shame etc so that God will fill it up with his love, faith, hope and healing grace. Whereas a bad heart is choke full of millions of tiny bits toxic debris that it is virtually impossible for God to remove and refill the heart with love, compassion or grace. Whenever God pours love and grace into the bad heart, very little will seep in and most of it will be spilled onto the ground because the owner of the bad heart has not done any spring-cleaning for ages.
Then God gives us a little tongue which is a multi-talented gift that is much more valuable than our i-Pad or i-Phone. Yes, our little tongues can sing and speak eloquent words that can even bring down the angels from heaven. Yes, the little tongues can earn millions of dollars. But this is the same tongue that has brought so much misfortune for mankind! Just imagine that it is the evil tongues that spread religious hatred and terrorism; the same wicked tongues that cheat, swindle and impoverish our neighbors by our sheer greediness. Yes, the tongue is the same instrument that we use to praise God one moment and in the next moment it becomes the weapon of mass destruction that we use to slaughter our neighbors on a macro scale or become a little toxic viper that spits out gossips at our neighbors on a micro scale!
No wonder most of us simply cannot make much spiritual progress with so much negative baggage in our souls. That is why it is so important that in order to really love our neighbor, we need to focus more on his/her good than on his/her bad. All of us have the choice- to see the good aspects and give his/her bad aspects the element of doubt. In the process of choosing to see the positives in our neighbor, we ourselves will be transformed into more loving and lovable human beings.
Father, thank you for your timely sermon that gives us so much food for thought.
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