“And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
The Lord said many things throughout Scripture. His words are powerful. We are created in His image and likeness and are filled with His Holy Spirit. Our words are powerful too.
Fasting From Words
The Scriptures warn us about the evils of the tongue. The sins of gossip and detraction probably aren’t on people’s minds as they enter the confessional, but they are on my mind because these sins affect me as well as everyone I know, clergy and laity alike.
There are so many examples in the Word of God about words. For me, the most powerful words in Scripture are et Verbum caro factum est (and the Word was made flesh). I could write an eternity on this, but I chose to keep this essay very short. I decided to fast from words this Lent, written and spoken. As I write this, we are two weeks into Lent, but that is what the Lord has given me to fast on.
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
One Scripture passage I love to meditate on is when Jesus curses the fig tree. I was always intrigued because Jesus cursed, and He cursed a fig tree no less. Growing up Italian in Brooklyn, we had fig trees, lots of them, and nobody cursed them. They always had abundant fruit on them.
Here in New Jersey, my fig trees are not as robust for some reason, but my neighbors’ oak trees which hung over my yard did very well. Notice I used the word hung, past tense. For many summers these trees were the bane of my outdoor existence. I’ve trimmed them, violent giant wasps have nested in them, and, worst of all, they dropped hundreds of pounds of leaves and egg corns into my koi pond and yard.
I Cursed Oak Trees
This past summer I had it. With the cursed fig tree in mind, and knowing the power of words, I would go out into the backyard every day and curse the oak trees, wishing that they would die and my neighbor would cut them all down. I boldly proclaimed they would all be dead but the two in the woods a distance away, which could live and remain.
Well, you probably guessed what happened by now. The oak trees began to die and my neighbor cut them all down and removed even the stumps. And the two trees which were not the target of my wrath are happy and healthy, waiting for spring. There is power in words. Now I am going to try this with the lottery.
Words of Life
I have also tried this out in a positive way. When I notice something good someone does, I make it a point to praise the person and the good deed. When it comes to co-workers, I let the managers know about the wonderful job my peers are doing. When it comes to the prayer warriors at church, I remind them how important their intercessory prayer is. I express gratitude and appreciation to my wife for all she does and remind my brother and his family how wonderful they are. I thank my parents for the great things they did for us growing up and remark about how in awe I am of how my mom takes such good care of my bedridden dad.
What I have learned is that words can bring death and they can also give life. I’m glad those oak trees are gone, yes, but I realize how important it is to speak words of life and not death—”only such [talk] as is good for edifying, that fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). As we travel through the valleys this Lent, ascend the mountain with Jesus to Calvary, and share in the glory of His Resurrection, let us remember to be kind to everyone we meet, even if they are not kind in return. The Lord said, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). My prayer for the world this Lent is that we all become new creations in Christ.
If you haven’t ever fasted from words, try it—it is harder than fasting from many other things. Peace and all good.