A Tongue-Lashing from the Book of James

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How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.
The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity;
it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species,
but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With it we bless the Lord and Father, and
with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.

My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?
Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs?
No more can salt water yield fresh.


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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One Response to A Tongue-Lashing from the Book of James

  1. My dear late mother who never spoke an unkind word about anyone (to their face or behind their back) often would recite to us an old Sicilian proverb that translated reads, “The tongue is not a bone but it can effortlessly break bones.”

    Then she would recount the story of one of the saints (I think St. Charles of Borromeo) to whom someone had gone to have her sins forgiven. “I spoke evil things against my neighbor,” said the woman. St. Charles replied, “For your penance take a pillow filled with chicken feathers, cut it open and let the wind blow all the feathers away.” The woman thought this a rather odd penance, but the saint was not done. “Now go and collect every single feather fed to the wind!” And as the woman sputtered away a host of “but’s,” St. Charles said, “Gossip once spoken is gone and cannot be retracted. Those little lies that defame and belittle others are like those released chicken feathers impossible to retrieve.”


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