Language and Lent

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to all those who hear . . . All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another and compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
(Eph 4: 29, 31-32)

St. Paul’s exhortation against “foul language” is as relevant now as it has ever been. Think of all the terrible misuse of language we encounter in our culture just about every day.
First, it seems that the public use of vulgar language is a growing trend, growing like a weed. Hardly a day goes by without hearing curse words in interviews with athletes and actors; in seeing them on protest signs, graffiti and internet postings. The recorded interviews have as many “beeps” as there are coherent thoughts. And worse still is the terrible habit of taking the name of Jesus in vain, that “name above every other name, that name at which every knee should bend.” (Phil 2: 9-10) Truly an insult to our Lord.
The abuse of language takes place when we create lies and spread gossip about people, in everyday conversations, or in public campaigns; and when we attack public figures whom we dislike and then rejoice in their struggles and downfall. The misuse of speech is a cruel and deadly weapon. That’s why Pope Francis has spoken so often about the “terrorism of gossip.”
And St. Paul also urges us “to forgive one another just as God has forgiven you in Christ.” It’s one of the lessons Jesus himself taught with great insistence and clarity. It’s very simple: God will not forgive you unless you have forgiven others. Is there someone in your life you haven’t forgiven – a relative, neighbor or co-worker; a supervisor, teacher or priest? Better think about it, for your salvation hangs in the balance.
The misuse of speech is a very common and ugly sin. Without a doubt, it’s something we all need to work on, and Lent is a perfect time to do so. Want to give up desserts for Lent? Terrific! Want to say some extra prayers for Lent? A worthwhile practice! But want to really grow in the spiritual life and the imitation of Christ in a practical way? Work on your language.
Something to think about: Practice using your language in a positive way to encourage people and help them, but never to hurt them.