Many of our human failures and sins against charity are due to useless chattering or listening complacently to the chatter of others, giving into gossips, or personally-motivated to partake in judging others. Many of our sins stemmed from our desires to put ourselves on a pedestal and throw rocks at others to make ourselves feel good or less miserable in life. As a matter of fact, we often see this on the news, TV, social media, the internet, and many other venues of the same, old, repetitive, and empty style of talks. In all honesty, it is difficult to find a pious person who, at the same time, talks a lot. As a matter of fact, those who possess the spirit of prayer embrace and love silence more than empty talks, willing to lift people up in their hearts than to throw them under the bus.
Hence, to overcome our tendency to be emptily vocal and offensive with our egocentric words, St. Ephrem reminded us, “Speak much with God but little with men.” It is so important, that before we want to say something reactionary, offensive, or vocal, we take the time to dialogue, speak, and listen to God first. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Is this what the Lord would want to hear coming from my mouth?”
St. John Chrysostom shared a similar guidance when he said, “Speak only when it is more useful to speak than to be silent.” Too oftentimes, we have allowed our words to only be self-justifying and appeasing, even if they hurt others; yet, the saints reminded us that silence is important, especially when we are hurt, and our words are not needed or effective at the moment. Many times, it is better to delay and say that we need to pray first before reacting to what has been given to us.
Furthermore, St. Gregory of Nyssa reminded us of the value of silence when he said, “By silence, we learn the art of speaking well.” We are called to practice virtues, and at times, the virtues of prudence are important because it allows us to take the time to pray, discern, reflect, and respond. If we are willing to speak the truth in humility and allow our words to be the extension of Christocentric charity, our words become life-giving because they are the reflections of our fruits of prayer.
St. Paul and the Apostles challenged us through their letters to preserve unity, kindness, and communion with one another. What we have received from the Lord at His Eucharistic Banquet needs to be shared and enlivened through our very own lives, words, deeds, and actions, else we let the Devil and his deceptive temptations divide us from within and we ourselves become hypocrites. The Pharisees and spiritual leaders at Jesus‘ time love to speak in order to justify themselves and point fingers to condemn others. They speak idle, negative, and useless words of self-centered justification. Nonetheless, the Savior spoke little at times, but when He spoke, His words were accompanied by grace-filled, transformative, and healing actions. He did not have to prove Himself and unjustly condemn anyone since He was, is, and will always be the Truth!
Too oftentimes, in our very own society, the voices of self-centeredness and condemnation are so vocal, attacking everybody and anybody, even behind the veils of compassion, mercy, acceptance, equality, tolerance, and others that the testimonies of truth are muffled and ignored. Hence, the saints have much to offered in this area, and they have given us some valuable advices (that could be extremely hard to practice). I would like to share some points that they have taught through their writings.
First, they said that if someone uses inappropriate, sinful, vulgar, or self-centered condemnatory language, or not speaking the truth, try to leave that gather if possible. If circumstances oblige us to stay, the saints and spiritual masters ask us to at least lower our eyes, remain silent or direct the conversation to another subject, or speak what is rightfully charitable so that we know we try or that our silence becomes a protest against the sickening chatter. As a matter of fact, one of my spiritual directors once told me that if our voices are not respected and welcomed, especially when the person or society does not want to hear what we have to say out of charity and truth, let our silence becomes the deafening reality.
If or when we are obliged to speak, we are called to weigh well what we intend to say. As St. Francis de Sales once put it, “In order to avoid faults in speech, we should have our lips buttoned, so that while unbuttoning them we may think of what we are going to say.” In a noisy, self-centered, shallow condemnatory world, let us not be immature, reactionary, despair or lose hope, but to remain faithful, God-centered, seek holiness and truth, and be humbly filled with hope. We can still pray for this world, even if it rejects us, bringing all its hurts and brokenness to the Healer and learn from Him to unite our sufferings to His’ and make them redemptive, sanctifying, and life-giving.
Our joy and spiritual maturity are grounded in prayer and truth. We can only understand, love, and open our hearts to God when we learn to listen and hear Him through prayer, seek His presence in creation, one another, and the sacraments, especially the Mass. It is important to remember that when He speaks, our souls will be at peace. If we are looking to only speak and be filled with other noises, His silence will become deafening to the soul.
Let us never forget that every instance in this life is an opportunity for prayer! Therefore, it is important for us to never stop praying, listening, be filled, and immersed in His loving presence.
When was the last time you and I have come to prayer and simply be opened to receiving Him? When was the last time we are able to simple receive, without asking or having to say something? Let us remember that even if He does not say anything, He is still there, and to be in His presence is our peace. We are pitiful people when we do not know how to listen and be in the divine, life-giving presence of God.
My brothers and sisters, no matter what happened or can happen, we have to be joyful in the Lord, for our hope is sure. We know that happened and will happen in the story of salvation and at the end! We know that He is true to His promise and He will not abandon us if we do not abandon Him. This is our joy! May we spend lives grounded in prayers, always joyful, prudential, careful, and loving in our words and actions so we can radiate His love. May our lives speak louder than empty, vocal, divisive, egocentric, and condemnatory words so people who see and come to encounter us will see our love for God enlivened.
Peace be with you.