power of words out of context

Greetings, friends! I’m not going to waste time with more feeble excuses for blog absenteeism. You’ve heard them all. I’m just going to jump back in…

From today’s liturgical readings;

Jer. 18:18-20.
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” …

The lectio divina form of prayer seeks a word or phrase that speaks to you, at this moment and place in time. Today, I pondered on these words;

And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word

In lectio divina words are often taken out of context. They become a springboard for mulling, meditating, praying, and discerning right action. This can be a good thing. A very good thing. But, how often do we take words out of context in order to destroy the character of others?

Taking words out of context and splattering them across news headlines and social media has become the preferred style of journalists, commentators, and bloggers. Others pick up on the energy in discussion boards, giving the words a larger life than intended or a distorted life far removed from the original meaning.

I’m guilty of this. I love to pounce on the latest stupid remark from a person on my “do not like” list whether a political candidate, celebrity, government or church leader. My ears become attuned to the words that fuel my dislike and affirm my righteous anger. I intentionally search them out, and gleefully share them with like-minded souls.

I’ve used this strategy to write many a blog post and column. Mea culpa.

Yet, there are times when words are so stupid that they make context irrelevant. Or, they are repeated so many times by the person that they become fair game for a good rant or a challenging debate. When we realize that the words accurately reflect the person speaking them and these words demean or promote hatred then it is our duty to challenge them.

As with many things in life, it boils down to discernment. And, discernment cannot be rushed. It requires careful pondering and judging before acting. This is especially challenging with instant communications.

For myself, I’m going to try and resist the temptation to pounce on the “headline wagon of the day”. It’s freeing, actually. One of the things that I was finding most stressful with my writing was trying to keep on top of all the issues as they happened. I admire the quick-witted writers who can pound out a thoughtful, meaningful commentary within hours or minutes of an event. I’m not one of them.


the unruly freedom of God’s word!

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 7

God’s word is unpredictable in its power…The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking. (Evangelii Gaudium, 22.)

What a glorious description of God’s word. Unpredictable in its power! Unruly freedom! How would our own faith journey change if we truly embraced the word of God as an extreme adventure, a challenge with a surprise around every corner? This can happen when we put aside preconceived images and well known interpretations and dare to open our ears and hearts to newness.

One of the easiest and best ways to do this is through the practice of lectio divina. The Advent season is full of rich scriptural readings. Take a look at today’s readings. Stop….ponder….chew them over…and just sit in the solitude and listen. Let the unruly freedom and unpredictable power of God’s word take over!

and yet another thought on silence…

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives….

 BENEDICT XVI Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

I still can’t get the knack of Twitter. I have an account, @catholicdiaolog. I basically use it to alert others to a new blog post. It’s been interesting to see the list of followers increase – many I’m sure just want me to reciprocate the favor. And, I usually do. It’s been a way to link up to other religious news and views sites. But, I really don’t think anyone is interested in every thought that comes out of my brain. Or, what I am eating at the moment. Or what TV show I’m watching…

On the other hand, I’m fascinated with a social media that intentionally puts a word limit on your thoughts. Few words, well chosen, can have more power than a rambling rant.

Several years ago, during a creative writing class, I fell in love with the process of poetry writing. I struggled with writing because I felt the need to record every thought. Letter writing was especially brutal. I waited too long to respond to a letter, Then, I felt burdened by all the news I needed to catch up on.

But poetry! Ah…it was a blessed relief. I relished finding the right word or phrase that nudges you to an inner depth and layers of meaning. Poetry, for me, was practicing silence in the writing. I fell in love with words…With the way they looked on the page. With the way they sounded. With the images they reflected.

Reading and pondering a few words is at the heart of Lectio Divina. My Benedictine friend, Sr. Grace, modelled for me how to mine the voice of God in a simple Psalm image. Meanwhile, I was getting bogged down in a confusing gospel passage or theological conundrums.

Grace taught me that God really does speak in gentle whispers and few words. What if God had a Twitter account?! 😉

See also

lectio divina – a dialogue with God

lectio divina – a dialogue with a prayer partner

lectio divina – a dialogue in community