Feast of Pentecost
May 20, 2018 4:00pm and 9:30am
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
Today I want to reflect with you about our language – the words we use when we speak.
Our words are very important. They have an effect on us and to some extent, they form us as persons.
Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel esteemed or worthless, or to become angry or compassionate.
And our words have an effect on our relationship with God. So, my concern is that we need to be intentional about our use of words.
As the saying goes, we need to think before we speak. For the past three or four months, I have been thinking about some basic rules for our use of words.
I have identified five positive rules for the kinds of words we are to say, and, there is a corresponding negative for the kinds of words we are to avoid. So, here goes!
Five Rules on Words
First, use words that are affirming and not belittling.
Affirm the good qualities of others or else just say nothing. Don’t belittle others and make them appear as no good.
Second, use words that are unitive and not divisive.
Speak about the values or practices that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide yourself from others as if there is no common ground between you.
Third, use words that are reconciling and not distancing.
Ask for forgiveness or be forgiving, or at least speak in a way that leaves the door open to reconciling. Don’t distance yourself from others especially by holding yourself as absolutely right and them as absolutely wrong.
Fourth, use words that are protecting and not bullying.
Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully them by taking advantage of their weakness or inferior position.
And fifth, use words that are persuasive and not coercive.
Treat others as rational and reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the issue is. Don’t try to coerce others into seeing or doing things your way.
Many Languages…One Understanding
Okay! I see these as five basic, but important rules on language – on our use of words.
I think they are a timely refresher. And I am moved to do this especially by today’s first reading.
The passage says that the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus’ disciples and there is a miracle of language. People from many different nations, speaking all different languages, understand what the disciples are saying.
Apparently, each language group hears the disciples speaking in their own language. That was the effect of the Holy Spirit.
So, my idea is that when we use words that are affirming, unitive reconciling, protecting, and persuasive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is flowing through us. This is a language that everyone can receive and understand, regardless of their native tongue.
And the results will be much like what Saint Paul describes in the second reading. We will be one, one body, in one Spirit – one, regardless of differences.
But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, and coercive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is not flowing through us. Then we are blocking the flow of the Spirit.
This is a language that others will not be able to receive and understand. And the results will be fragmentation and probably hostility.
So, to go back to where I began, our language, our use of words is very important.
It has consequences. The words we speak to your husband or wife, to your parents or children, to our classmates or co-workers, to our neighbors or friends – these are important and they have effects.
The words may be about those with whom we are speaking. Or they may be about other persons or groups – maybe persons of other nationalities, races, religions, or cultures.
The Scripture today calls us to let the Holy Spirit flow through us in our language. Then our words will be able to be received and understood and have life-giving effects.