"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them."
It is as if the prophet Isaiah was watching the 2005 movie, Passion of the Christ, in the 8th century B.C. A portrait of the Messiah was given to the people of God some seven hundred-plus years before the prophetic word was spoken and before the first drop of blood was drawn. In chapter 50 of his book, Isaiah weaves two very important themes together: Our Lord’s proclamationof the Gospel and his Passion. Indeed, with bearing witness to Christ’s love and in leading souls to heaven, there must be a Passion, a price to be paid, if you will! As Pope Leo XIII said, “No man can hope for eternal reward unless he follow in the blood-stained footprints of his Savior.”
When Our Lady appeared to the children in Fatima in 1917, she did not ask them if they were certified catechists, or if they were well read in theology or even if they were actively engaged in ministry. All these things are good and even necessary, but they did not rank as the highest of priorities for the Mother of God. She simply asked Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco the following question: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the suffering that He may please to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?” That was the crux! That’s all she wanted to know. Answering in the affirmative, they became useful instruments in the Hands of God. Indeed, great events were to follow all because they said “yes” to the Cross.
Jesus Christ consented to the suffering that was asked of him as well. The Letter to the Hebrews has him saying, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” And as we turn back the pages to the book of Isaiah, not only is Christ’s mission is foretold in chapter 50 but with it, the mission of the servants of God is wonderfully traced out as well. Like the three seers at Fatima, this Servant of God knew that raising up the lowly and feeding those who hungered for God came with a price tag:
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled, have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together.
Who disputes my right? Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?
For those of us who aspire to be useful servants of God and for those of us who want to usher in the kingdom of heaven, one thing isneeded: a well-trained tongue. A well-trained tongue does not speak falsehood or words of retaliation but is always keeping in mind that it is the sin that we hate but never the sinner. Indeed, when all is said and done, we want to see even our worst enemy in heaven with us; that is, if we should persevere in holiness to the end.
To inspire and to rouse the soul to repentance and love of God, the tongue must be trained to speak to the essentials of salvation and avoid superfluous issues which may distract from that end. And one very commondistraction is to have a greater compassion for our neighbor’s feelings than their soul. In fact, every Saint teaches us that sparing feelings is never to be preferred to saving souls. If correction or a word of admonition will rouse the soul to repentance, then the welfare of the soul must take precedence over a preference for a peaceful coexistence. In other words, to avoid “rocking the boat” is not always an act of charity.
But first thing is first: Every morning it is important- not just to speak to the Lord in prayer -but to listen to his Word through spiritual reading or meditation. Through silence and attentiveness our ears are opened. No doubt, silence is the language of God. And it is in that silence that eternity, which envelops us, can be discerned.
Another way of listening to the Lord is to accept the circumstances of each day as his will. The Saints also teach that circumstances - good or bad - are the content of God’s daily revelation to us. It is in those circumstances and conditions of life that God’s will can be discerned. No need to look elsewhere.
Quite understandably, when the circumstances deprive us of something we desire or someone we love, then resignation to the Divine Will is a great hardship. But this hardship is the very thing our Lord referred to when he said pick up your Cross and follow me. As painful as it is, picking up this heavy Cross when adversity presses against us is purifying; indeed, just when we think we are being torn down we are also, in fact, being built-up.
Our love for God is being perfected precisely because it is no longer dependent on the gifts he gives to us. This is why St. Paul can say,“Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we do not rebel or do not turn back then we can rest assured that God’s life-giving compensation is awaiting us, not only in heaven but in this life! Although it seems out of reach at the time, nevertheless, we will reap the fruits of perseverance on this side of eternity.
Christ, the Servant of God, willingly gave his back for lashing and his face to spitting. Pain and humiliation was his lot. And when we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual worship (cf. Rom.12), Jesus can take the training wheels off of our mission in life. He can therefore let us go and do his work in his name. But when we flinch, when we draw back because we foresee pain and humiliation, we should not expect too much. The fruits from our labor will be few.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.