SOMEONE ONCE ASKED ST FRANCIS for his interpretation of Ezekiel 33:8-9:
"If I (God) say to the wicked, 'O wicked ones, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life."
His reply was quite unexpected and yet enlightening: "If that passage is supposed to be understood in a universal sense, then I understand it to mean that a servant of God should be burning with life and holiness so brightly that by the light of example and the tongue of his conduct, he will rebuke all the wicked. In that way, I say, the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation will proclaim their wickedness to all of them."
WENT FOR A TWO-DAY SILENT RETREAT with a friend S. at the Ignatian Spirituality Centre last weekend. For some time, had been mulling over the meaning of "speak the truth in love". i believe in "speaking the truth", but the difficult thing for me most times is: how to do so "in love"?
Providentially, the gospel reading for that Sunday was Luke 4:21-30. And among the passages that my SD gave me to pray over for Day 2 was Ephesians 4:25-32.
Was quite struck by an article by Fr Tom Cox (Intercom) in the church bulletin: "... Each of us, called in God's way, to speak and live truth boldly, whatever the consequences. Not from a motive of anger, frustration, any need to be grand or glorious. But the truth tempered by love."
Yes, quite true. In a way, Fr Cox's words echo the February 16 reading in Our Daily Bread, The Tests of Criticism. i can determine when i should criticize and when i shouldn't by asking myself three questions:
1. Am I motivated by a desire to help the other person?
2. Am I planning to face him honestly, but gently?
3. Am I doing this for the Lord, or because I enjoy being critical?
But having asked these questions and found that i'm genuinely motivated by a desire to help the other person and so on, how do i handle any residual 'anger, frustration, ecetera' that might still be within me? And how do i stir up that love before speaking?
The one hour spent praying over Ephesians 4:25-32 turned out to be quite fruitful. Was reminded of an anger management method that a friend F. shared with me a few weeks ago. And something that Fr A. said quite a long time ago about "giving others the benefit of doubt" -- which reminded me of some text i found a month or two ago in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (haven't re-discovered it yet). Then, for some reason, the words in the passage began to make more sense being read backwards then forwards. i finally ended the session with a prayer:
"Dear Lord Jesus, i pray that you would grant me these graces: Before i speak the truth to anyone, may i always turn to you first and try my best to be 'kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving', to give others the benefit of doubt first, making up to ten excuses for their behavior.
"When i start speaking, may 'no evil talk come out of [my] mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that [my] words may give grace to those who hear.' So then, i would 'not grieve the Holy Spirit of God'. May 'all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice' be far removed from me. Thus, even if i am angry, may i 'not sin, never letting the sun set on [my] anger' and so, 'never giving the devil a foothold'. So help me, Lord. AMEN."
Now, looking back at St Francis' answer on Ezekiel 33, i wonder, "Have i missed something important?" Yes, i've forgotten that 'action speaks louder than words' and how St Francis' life had always embodied this message, "Preach the gospel always; and if neccesary, use words!"