Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

James 3, 1-12

Only a few of you, my brothers, should be teachers, bearing in mind that we shall receive a stricter judgement.

For we all trip up in many ways. Someone who does not trip up in speech has reached perfection and is able to keep the whole body on a tight rein.

Once we put a bit in the horse's mouth, to make it do what we want, we have the whole animal under our control.

Or think of ships: no matter how big they are, even if a gale is driving them, they are directed by a tiny rudder wherever the whim of the helmsman decides.

So the tongue is only a tiny part of the body, but its boasts are great. Think how small a flame can set fire to a huge forest;

The tongue is a flame too. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world: it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.

Wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish of every kind can all be tamed, and have been tamed, by humans;

but nobody can tame the tongue -- it is a pest that will not keep still, full of deadly poison.

We use it to bless the Lord and Father, but we also use it to curse people who are made in God's image:

the blessing and curse come out of the same mouth. My brothers, this must be wrong-

does any water supply give a flow of fresh water and salt water out of the same pipe?

Can a fig tree yield olives, my brothers, or a vine yield figs? No more can sea water yield fresh water.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

James has a sense of the sacredness of the Word of God, but he also teaches us to have great respect for human words. God himself chose to transmit his Word through human words. There is a tight link between becoming teachers and not being able to refrain our tongue. Humility and service help us to know ourselves truthfully and to use words of love rather than of division. James writes that words are like the rudder that guides a ship on the sea, or like a spark that can set a life on fire. The power of words comes from the fact that they reveal the human heart, that is, the good and bad that each person keeps in the deepest part of him or herself. Jesus himself had warned that it is from the heart that come, "fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly" and every evil thought and intention (Mk 7:15, 21 ff.). The tongue is the mirror of the heart and it demands immense interior discipline. It is hard to dominate the tongue and direct its strength. The same thing that happens to the heart also happens to the tongue - it is more willing to please itself and accuse others than to build up fraternity among men and women. We are surprised by the destroying power James attributes to the tongue that is like fire and even "a world of iniquity" difficult to tame. Often we do not think about the power of destruction and of division that our speech can have when we talk ill about others, when we judge without mercy, when we endorse opinions and prejudices on others, when we speak arrogantly, quarrel and raise our voices in order to affirm ourselves. Often the tongue divides inexorably without our realizing it. This happens in society but also in the Church and in our communities. Sometimes "we bless the Lord and Father, and ...we curse those who are made in the likeness of God." James urges his readers to be sober and not to talk too much or act like teachers. This is a lesson we need to study carefully. Whatever the case may be, we need to welcome the Word of the Lord and the preaching of the Gospel so that they might purify our heart and so render our words fruitful. A heart and thus a tongue that are not animated by the Word of God obey only themselves and end up dividing and destroying. They become like a fountain of contaminated water. James continues to offer us this wisdom so that our speech may be full of love.