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The Tongue

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Because of the vagaries of the two different calendars, lunar and Gregorian, which are used to calculate the liturgical year, some of the readings from the lectionary appear infrequently. This is especially true of those readings that are assigned to the weeks of Ordinary Time just before the beginning of Lent and just after the Season of Easter. So for instance, the readings assigned for Thursday through Saturday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time will not be proclaimed this year.

When I heard the first reading for today's liturgy, I had to admit that I was not all that familiar with this passage from the Letter of James. It is a powerful reading about the power of the human tongue for good and for evil. James uses vivid imagery to describe this power. For instance, he compares the tongue to a small flame which can set a huge forest ablaze. He goes on to say that the tongue can be used to praise God, but it can also be used to curse and utter foul words. I sat in quiet thought as I meditated on the power of James' words and realized that this small "member" of the body is one of the most powerful.

St. Paul writes in one of his letters that we should say only the good things that people need to hear. I am sure that St. Paul and St. James would have found each other's words supportive of their individual thoughts about the tongue. In the course of my meditation this morning, I remembered a discussion that I once had with an older Franciscan friar who has since gone to his reward. He mentioned to me that he had chosen the admonition of St. Paul as the basis of his Lenten penance. He resolved to speak only positive things that people needed to hear throughout the Lenten Season. At the time I thought it a creative approach to Lent. After listening to St. James this morning, I am even more convinced of the efficacy of this Lenten discipline.

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