Putting Words in Your MouthFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
It was exquisite! Just the right response to a mean comment! I mean the timing was perfect. The word choice was absolutely right on. And the effect was exactly what I was hoping for. It was like a perfect third strike pitch in the bottom of the ninth of the last game of the World Series. It was exquisite!
And it’s rare.
You know what I’m talking about. How many times have you said to yourself minutes or hours after a confrontation “Oh, I should have said…” or “If only I would have responded with …” Having the right words to say at the right time is such a powerful moment and all too often elusive to us in the heat of the moment.
So, what’s the key for the right words at the right time? First, anger always clouds reason and blocks the right responses. Second, fear always intoxicates us at key moments and reduces our ability to think clearly. We usually are reduced to the basic “flight or fight” responses. Finally, the right words flow from the heart, the mind, and the soul prepared by previous disciplined practice. In the heat of the moment, there is no substitute for previous focused training! There is an old Chinese saying that “the best warrior is never angry!”
For the last several days our regular scripture lessons have come from the Book of Acts. When was the last time you read this book of the Bible all the way through? It is such a powerful witness of what happens to a group of people who actually live every day like the Resurrection of Jesus is a real event and they are participating in His resurrected life!
And today’s Scripture Lesson reveals a promise the Lord made to His disciples before His life-giving death to be very much the truth! The Lord told His disciples that they would be arrested and persecuted because of their faithfulness to Him and His Gospel. And He told them not to worry about what to say in those stressing times because the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say at the right time! (see Matthew 10:16-20)
In Acts 4:1-10, this is exactly what happens! The now Spirit-empowered followers of Jesus are continuing His ministry of healing and this causes the religious leaders to be “annoyed” (don’t you just love the way St. Luke writes!) (see Acts 4:2). The religious leaders arrest the Apostle St. Peter and his companions and the next day they interrogate them. And St. Peter, far from his stumbling and stammering denials before the Lord’s trial and crucifixion, speaks with authority and boldness, and he clearly declares the Truth that it is the Resurrected Jesus and His resurrected life that has healed the man that has cause such a commotion in the city!
As we travel towards the great Feast of Pentecost and live in the glories of the Paschal season, the Church confronts us with the reality of just what a life is like that is connected to the Resurrected life of the Risen Lord.
A person that has embraced and become embraced by the reality of Pascha is a person who is truly alive. This person is liberated from fear and death. This person is filled with a strength that he knows is a gift and not his own. This person lives a life of grateful adoration and is everyday “in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) This is a person who isn’t worried about what to say when the time comes, because he is connected to the Source of wisdom and love that knows everyone better than they know themselves.
Is this you?
Yeah, I know, I have some ways to go before it’s me too. But that only means we must take up the challenge to become that person by choosing a life of being Orthodox on purpose in embracing all the Lord provides for us in the Resurrection of His Son.
Today, let’s do what the early disciples did and continue daily in the Apostle’s doctrine, in authentic fellowship, in the Eucharistic life of the Church, and in learning to pray unceasingly. The end result will be the right words at the right time in every situation!
Christ is risen!