Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Day (Mass during the Day)
Words That Hurt & The Word That Heals

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Sisters and brothers, I think you’ve probably heard this maxim before. It’s what parents used to teach their children to say when teased by their friends. Words will never hurt me. A very brave statement to make, don’t you think? It seems to imply that words don’t matter very much. And yet, we all know, from experience, the power that words have over us. Anyone who’s ever opened a rejection letter, for example, turning down their application for a much needed job, or to a much sought after school, will know the power of words to sadden and to disappoint us.

And words can do much worse than that. Some of us will remember, for example, the tragic story of Amanda Todd, the 15 year-old Canadian girl, who took her own life just a couple of months ago, after being cruelly bullied on Facebook. Or perhaps some of us may know first hand what it feels like to be a victim of character assassination. Having others gossip about us. Or spread rumours concerning us. Whether true or not. Demolishing our reputations or even our careers in the process. Clearly, not only can words disappoint, they can also destroy.

And those are just the more obvious effects. There are also more subtle but no less dangerous ones. Not only can words disappoint and destroy, they can also deceive and seduce. Mislead and confuse. How many of us, for example, can deny being continually enticed by cunning advertisers into buying things that we do not really need? And on a regular basis? How many of us can say that we have not been led to believe, by society at large, that our worth as persons depends mainly upon the highs and lows of our successes and failures. Upon the make of car that we drive, or the district in which we live. Upon the kind of work we do, or the company we keep. Upon the school to which we send our kids, or the grades those same kids obtain. How many of us can claim to be unaffected by the words that may pop into our minds from time to time, telling us we’re worthless. Or just not good enough. Discouraging us from persevering in whatever worthwhile thing we may be trying to do.

Sisters and brothers, whether we care to admit it or not, words do have power over us. Power to disappoint and to destroy. To seduce and to mislead. To discourage and to depress. But if this is true, what becomes of our beloved maxim then? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Are parents expecting too much from their children when they teach them to say this? Is it just a matter of wishful thinking? Of putting up a brave front. If words are indeed so powerful, how can we expect not to be hurt by them?

And yet, perhaps the maxim doesn’t really mean that words do not have power over us. They do. Obviously. But rather, as powerful as words may be, perhaps it remains possible for us to tune them out. The way people tune a radio, for example. Or switch channels on a TV set. We can tune out the hurtful and misleading words by tuning in to healing and nurturing ones. Isn’t this how parents can help to protect their children from the cruel and confusing words of others? By constantly speaking loving and nurturing words themselves. Words of guidance and of truth. And words that are not just being spoken, but also constantly being translated into action. Into quality time spent with the child, for example. And into close attention being paid to its needs and concerns. Such that, held secure in their parents’ unconditional love and acceptance, the child is better able to disregard whatever hurtful things others may say about it.

Isn’t this also what our God, our divine Parent does for us? Isn’t this what we celebrate at Christmas? The wonderful mystery of our heavenly Father speaking to us in a remarkably new and compelling way.  Reminding us of how much we are loved and cherished. Showing us the way to true happiness. As the second reading tells us: At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. His Son Jesus, who, the gospel tells us, is also the eternal Word of God. At Christmas, we celebrate how this same Word of God becomes translated into terms that we can better experience and understand. Into a living breathing human person, whom we can see and touch. The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory.

But that’s not all. As the Word of God comes among us, he also brings much power. The power to save us from our enemies. From the hurtful and misleading words that threaten to lead us astray. In the first reading, this salvation comes in the form of the joyful news that God is fighting on behalf of his people. For the Lord is consoling his people, redeeming Jerusalem. The Lord bares his holy arm in the sight of all the nations. And this should not be surprising. For this is what the Word of God is all about. As the gospel tells us, the Word of God is both light and life. He enlightens all people. Shows them the way to true happiness. And to those who receive his message, those who accept him into their hearts and into their lives, the Word gives power to become children of God. Power to live life to the full.

Isn’t this what Christmas is really about? It is about a loving Father continuing to speak his Word to his children. His Word of Love and Light and Life. And even translating this Word into a human person, able to lay down his life for his friends. Helping them to protect themselves against the effects of other words. Dangerous words. Words that seduce and discourage and destroy.

Sisters and brothers, perhaps it is true that while sticks and stones may break our bones, words will never hurt us. But only provided we learn to tune out these same words of danger and tune in to the Word of God made flesh for us. The Word whose coming we celebrate at Christmas.

Sisters and brothers, which channel are you tuned into? Whose words are you listening to today?


  1. Indeed, words would have power over us if and when we -empower the spoken words.

    Somehow, for me - i tend to focus on the hurtful and destructive words which i had accumulated for many years...- especially painful words from those who are hurting in themselves...

    yes,it's only now that i can see that i had been focussing on the wrong side/perspective...that i had failed to see myself in GODS LIGHT!

    As 2013 draws near,i pray for the grace to be more positive and to be more sensitive for others -and to learn to accept myself as God loves and accepts me

    As i grow in this deep awareness about God's abiding presence within me - and when i let this truth sinks into me, as i allow GOD PRESENT in HIS WORD to touch and heal me, - then, i would pray with a grateful heart;

    "The Lord IS my SHEPHERD, there is nothing I shall want." Psalm 23;1.

    May the Lord grant you HIS PEACE.

    Pax et Bonum

  2. I have to confess that due to one such person in my family, who is always testing our patience with her cold attitude, and refused to cooperate, has made all of us loose our anger. Harsh words were being hurled, yet she still maintained a cool or nonchalent attitude.

    I believe that words, if use/hurled wrongly will be the greatest hurt to receive on anyone. So, from now on, knowing that God still loves me, I will turn to his Channel of Love and Peace instead.

    My Jesus, My Saviour,
    Lord there is no one like you,
    All of my days, I want to praise
    The wonders of Your mighty love.

    My comfort, my shelter,
    Tower of refuge and strength
    Let every breath, all that I am
    Never cease to worship You.

    Yes.. always Shout to the Lord and sing for joy for His work.


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