Saturday, July 12, 2014

A word, please?

Words.  Words, words, wordswordswords.  If ever there was a city built on words, it is ours; and if ever there was a life built on words, mine would be it.
At the bottom of this screen is a word count for the document as I write it.  It ticks upward toward my goal of five to six hundred for every one of these columns I write.  Sometimes I exceed it; occasionally I stop short.  Every column I have written since the first of this year is in an electronic folder marked “2014;” I have such folders going back to 2006, when I arrived at this parish that July; and another folder for Old Saint Mary Church, where I was before, with the first “Blurb,” as I call this literary form, dated 17 December 2005.  There are fifty columns each year, each folder.
That is only the beginning.  There are letters and notes and outlines in other folders, then homilies and presentations, and emails somewhere else.  There are also homilies and talks I have given that are not written down, conversations I have had in person and on the phone.  Speaking of phones, mine clutches an array of threads of text messages, also made up of more words, a few of them abbreviated, but rather more misspelled.
The folders full are rarely visited, the text strings even less so.  The words never written are gone forever, never to be recovered or reconstructed.  Lost, forgotten, possibly even wasted – or are they?
Each word that finds a hearer, or a reader, affects and possibly alters the heart or mind that receives it, perhaps as imperceptibly as the storied flap of a butterfly’s wings, but affects it nonetheless.  Each heart, each mind, each life responds, reacts, and relates to these words, often with words of its own, and lives are changed forever.
Ephemeral as they seem, these words, they are famous for being unalterable.  “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” goes the maxim, but neither can you ever unsay anything that’s been said.  Even the word left unspoken can grow to enormous and lasting significance.
Even without perusing my files, I can wonder about the effect of my words, whether it was good or regrettable, or whether there was any at all. 
To pause and take responsibility for these words, each word, and stand honestly before God is a humbling but helpful work.  It is hard to resist this reflection in light of His revelation this Sunday, about the power and purpose of His own Word:
Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
They come out of our mouths, are tapped into our phones and typed onto our screens, and gush out of our mouths with and without thought or preparation, splashing onto hearers both intended and unintended.  If the “folder” that holds them all, each and every one, were to stand open before us for any and all to read, how would we stand?  How could we?
Then must we speak, and utter the only possible word:  Be it done unto me according to your word.  And then shall His Word do its merciful work in our lives, and shall do (His) will, achieving the end for which (He) sent it.

Monsignor Smith

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