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I want to share with you some thoughts on something similar to a spiritual computer virus — SIN! In the last six months my computer has gone on the blink twice. I lost everything on the hard drive, and both times it was the result of a computer virus. Thankfully, I had saved everything on separate disks or I would have lost everything. For those of you who don't know a lot about computers, a virus is a program or set of instructions that a programmer sends out to other computers. These orders are introduced into the computer, and their sole purpose is to perform a malicious act, such as destroying data, giving incorrect instructions, and even ruining the entire hard drive (or brain) of the computer.

The virus is copied and sent out to many computers, and in a short time hundreds, even thousands, of computers are infected. If the Apostle James were alive today, he would compare the computer virus to the destructive potential of the tongue.

So today, I want to focus on the destructive power of the tongue. Every one of us at one time or another has said things we regret later, and St. Faustina was no different. She wrote, "... I do not trust my tongue which, at such moments, is inclined to talk for itself... " (Diary, 92). Thinking about that line made me reflect on situations where, in a fit of anger or frustration, I said things that hurt someone; and, later on after things had cooled down, I would ask myself, "Did I really say that?" So, in some ways, my tongue does have a mind of its own!

The writings in scripture from James also speak to the heart of the problem for many of us. "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!" (Jas 3:5). Think of how much damage in personal relationships, family life, and workplace has been done because of the tongue.

And, James continues on, writing, "And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This ought not to be so" (Jas 3:6-10).

How hard it is to control such a small thing! Imagine all the broken marriages and families, division in communities, and yes, even wars, that have been started because people could not control their tongues.

I remember reading a book as a child about cowboys out west finding wild mustangs and trying to tame them, and how difficult it was to get these wild horses under control. The tongue is like that for many of us — so difficult to control! Saint Faustina knew and wanted her tongue to be used only for God, and wrote, "I want my tongue to praise God without cease. The tongue commits great faults. The soul will not attain sanctity if it does not keep watch over its tongue" (Diary, 92).

Reflect on those last words: "The soul will not attain sanctity if it does not keep watch over its tongue!" I find myself trying more and more to bite my tongue, to keep my mouth shut until later when things have cooled off or perhaps when I am not so tired; it is at these times that I am more inclined to overreact. However, sometimes the small organ takes off with a mind of its own and continues its reign of terror. But we all need to continue to get up after we fall, and be humble enough to apologize to those we hurt.

As we continue our spiritual walk, as we reflect on God's love for us, let us think before we speak, and use our tongues only for building people up. Let us use our tongue only to give honor and glory to God, making a conscious effort today to avoid gossip, slander, and destructive criticism. As we try to harness the wild mustang that we call the tongue, let us remember the words of St. Faustina: "The soul will not attain great sanctity if it does not keep watch over its tongue." And in spite of all our shortcomings, especially with our tongue, don't lose hope and remember the words of our Lord to St. Faustina: "The greater the sinner, the greater the right to My mercy" (Diary, 723).

Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Learn more about EADM.

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Frank - May 27, 2008

The "tongue" is the last thing people think about when discussing sanctity. James shows how central cntrol of the tongue really is. And the book of Proverbs has much to say about this important topic. I know from experience that controlling the (my) tongue is one of the hardest parts of the spiritual journey. It is a barometer of our spiritual health. I think the one thing I admire about people of holiness was that there tongued was "saved" ... they never speak ill of others but use their tongue to bless, affirm, comfort and encourage. Thank you Bryan for this much needed teaching.

P. - May 27, 2008

Thank you for a good and timely reminder .
may we be able to use one easy way to build oneself up and those who are hurt, by a word of apology and thanking our Lord for that grace in us and for the recipient , who accepts our apology !

MARY SUMALINOG - May 28, 2008

I sometimes think our tongues are like pitbulls. They carry a lot of power. But they are very hard to control. They make a lot of friends but they make a number of enemies, too. Oh yes, they are very hard to tame. In fact, the reading today says "no man can tame the tongue."
Lord, help me control my tongue today. Let the words I will speak bring life and encouragement. May You be glorified in everything I say. Amen.

Gillian Pillow- - Feb 15, 2009

Thank you for such an eye-opening article Dr. Thatcher. I will do my best to keep it in mind the next time I will be about to say something unpleasant, unfortunately to my husband mostly. May God bless you and your family and the Appostolate. Thank you

George - Feb 28, 2011

Thank You for this article.

Jesus said "Silence is golden."

My spiritual journey begins with a closed mouth and silent prayer.