Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
When you publish a piece of writing–a book, an article or a tweet, it is forever. It becomes public record. It can come back to haunt you. I’ve written and published numerous things, most of which I am proud of. But there is one thing I wrote that I wish I could take back. It was just a book review. It wasn’t terrible. I both criticized and praised the book. However, I became a little too impressed by my own cleverness, giving into the temptation of what Isaiah calls “malicious speech.” I failed in charity. I could excuse myself. After all, it was just one little book review. It even got me some enthusiastic pats on the back. Still, I realized how dangerous a few cleverly strung together words could become if this became a habit.
It’s striking that Isaiah places refraining from malicious speech on the same level as caring for the hungry and afflicted. It can have far more damaging an impact than we think. Just this week in the news they are talking both about how commonplace denigrating others has become in our public discourse, and whether or not those being attacked should respond in kind. At the same time, we hear that some of these same people are enacting policies to keep refugees out of our country. Was Isaiah on to something when he placed the two together? When speaking of others without charity becomes “no big deal,” then how much easier does acting uncharitably become?
In numerous talks, Pope Francis has compared gossip and malicious speech to terrorism and murder. When I first read this, it struck me as too extreme. But, with every whisper I hear behind someone’s back, and every nasty tweet I read, I become more convinced that he is right, especially when I’m tempted to do the same.
It seems that no matter how hard I try, evil thoughts about others enter my mind and leave my mouth. You know that I even sometimes take pleasure in these things.
But, you have taught me through your word, and your suffering, how damaging this can be. Therefore, help me to be more clever and creative in how I exercise my charity toward others, than I am in the ways that I tear down and denigrate them. Let my choice be increasingly to treat them as I would treat you, knowing that love and mercy are what you demand of me. May I be the light in the darkness that you have told me that I can be.
—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ
Please share the Good Word with your friends!