Sins of the tongue

My post for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, at One Peter Five, “This Sunday’s Gospel Has a Word that “Sums up the Whole Message and the Whole Work of Christ”” begins with a digression.

Because the Gospel for this 11th Sunday after Pentecost concerns the miraculous healing of a man’s deafness and inability to talk, before I drill into the Sunday passage and risk losing most of you because I go on and on and on, let me offer this from the top.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (+390) says that half of all vices may be charged to the account of the tongue. It would be better for many persons to have no tongue and to be unable to talk from their birth, for then they would be miserable only for this life, whereas owing to the sins of their tongue they plunge themselves into eternal damnation. Talk not inconsiderately, but bear in mind that you have to give an account of every idle word you speak.

How many sins could we avoid, if we would bridle our tongues! Or, rather, sheath them. The 17th c. Protestant preacher Thomas Brooks (+1680) said, our tongues can be likened to three fatal weapons, a razor, a sword and an arrow: the tongue slashes reputations, wounds deeply and can strike from afar. By our speech we reveal our inner selves to others. Thus, Brooks:

When the Pumpe goes you may quickly know whether the water that is in the Fountain or Well, be clear or muddy, sweet or stinking; and when the clapper strikes, you may soon guess of what mettal the Bell is made of: and so by mens tongues you may easily guess what is in their hearts; if the tongue be vil’d, the heart is so; if the tongue be bloody, the heart is so; if the tongue be adulterous, the heart is so; if the tongue be malicious, the heart is so; if the tongue be covetous, the heart is so; and if the tongue be cruel, the heart is so, &c. Mens minds are known by their mouthes; if the mouth be bad, the mind is not good; he that is rotten in his talk, is commonly rotten in the heart. Of all the members of the body, there is none so serviceable to Satan as an evil tongue….

With that in mind, I proceed in my weekly task invoking St. Francis de Sales, who wrote:

“I wish I had buttons on both lips [hands?], which I should be obliged to unfasten when I had an occasion to speak [write?], for I should then gain more time to reflect, and to consider.”

Let us now consider together the context of this Sunday’s Holy Mass and its readings.

Even as he warns against assuming conscious organization of the themes of Sundays of Ordered Time after Pentecost, the great commentator of the 20th century Liturgical Movement Pius Parsch suggests that…


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  1. TonyO says:

    I recognize myself in the above – sins committed with the tongue. So I am not going to attempt to excuse or deny the validity of what St. Gregory is warning us against.

    However, it might also be mentioned that in today’s world, there are also many sins of omission when we FAIL to speak, i.e. against some evil that we ought to say something about: the times when a bully was harassing a kid, and we said nothing. The times when a co-worker made a lewd joke, and we said nothing – not even the silent “nothing” of getting up and walking away. And for our dear priests: the times when they failed to point out evils, in fear of being mocked or castigated. And worse: for bishops, the times when they failed to rein in their wayward priests, or failed to fire their seminary teachers, when they went off the rails into some sort of degeneracy. Or failed to correct abusive priest situations, when they had the opportunity. Or the times (in recent years) when they failed to correct the pope when he said something wrong.

  2. ZestyLemonZach says:

    Every time I read saints from the mideval period and before I’m just constantly terrified. The greatest among them seemed confident in their damnation over the smallest sin, and I’m hopeless to ever meet that kind of standard. I want to know God’s love and mercy but around every corner of the traditional church is a priest with a looming threat that God is ready to cast you into eternal torment for the slightest infraction, no matter how hard it is to fight. I can’t even keep myself in a state of grace; how can I ever meet that standard? How can I love God with the constant threat ultimate punishment constantly weighing me down?

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    You don’t go on and on and on, you provide interesting and helpful information that profits the flock.

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