The Power of Words
“I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak” Matthew 12:36
Words are such funny things. The right words cheer you up and the wrong word kills a thousand dreams.
According to the Global Language Monitor, the number of words in the English language is 1,025,109.8. I wonder what the .8th word is, a word that all want to say but seldom find the courage to? Anyways, without digressing, so they also say that every 98 minutes a new word is created. Hence potentially atleast 14 words can get added in our vocabulary every single day. But what are the words we want to add and which are the words we are better off without.
A couple of Sundays ago, I decided to go to the famous Mount Mary Church in Bandra. Popular fable tell me that this church is visited by over 10 million devotees and pilgrims annually. Many of the pilgrims attest to the miraculous power of the Virgin Mary. This shrine attracts people from all faiths and the road that leads to this church is filled with ‘faith’ sellers. Their wares complete with rosaries and offertories shaped as homes, babies and even limbs, each depicting the burdens and the desires in the minds of the pilgrims who come here.
I bought candles, covered my head and walked into the church where a service was in progress. Quietly, I sat down at the first available place and held my head low, partly in reverence, partly to hide the embarrassment of disturbing a service. As I settled, gathered a prayer book I noticed that this service was like none I have ever been to. There was a priest religiously leading the service and there 10 steps to his right was a lady who hung on to every single word that came from the leader and diligently, through the magic woven by her hands breathed meaning to these words for the 50 odd silent audience. I glanced around and soon realised that I was in the midst of a congregation that was deaf and dumb.
I slowly kept my prayer book aside and started observing my fellow believers who calmly participated. There was a harmony to their responses, a synchrony in the hand movements, a peace and joy in their understanding and a silence which only spoke of peace. I had never gone through an experience so moving, yet so tranquil. I sat there thanking God for all that he had blessed this world with. All the words he has given me and wishing that I would chose them better as they are a privilege given to me, not an entitlement.
Soon after the words ‘for this is My body of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ I realised the communion had begun. In single file, the assembled got up to partake of the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Not a single word spoken and yet so much was exchanged.
Suddenly the calm and peace was disturbed by a loud voice. I turned to see a lady who embodied the “gorgeous mother of evil”1 from Revelations. She was the cattle herder, the virtue upholder, the dutiful Christian who assumed the role of the janitor. She was shooing away non - Christians from the holy altar, she was the barricade between them and salvation, the body and blood. She was emphatic and determined- ‘No non-Christian will partake in the body and blood’. She howled and with her rough callous hands physically stopped people ‘Are you a Christian? Please go back, this is only for Christians”.
In a moment the peace was shattered. The tranquillity of the service, the oneness with God, the feeling of all-encompassing love, an afterlife where invisible boundaries do not discriminate, a father who does not favour the ‘blessed with words’ over the ones ‘without words’ all seized to be relevant in that moment where with the wrong words and worse motives we had an assumed disciple policing the walkway to heaven. I felt like the spirit left that gathering that very minute and now we were just mere people, riled with our earthly flaws.
With those words that lady took away from me the peace that morning offered. But for the non-Christian pilgrims, I wonder if she took away some part of their faith and purpose.
1 Revelation 17 : 3-5 Then he carried me away in spirit into the desert. There I saw a woman riding upon a scarlet animal, covered with blasphemous titles and having seven heads and ten horns. The woman herself was dressed in purple and scarlet, glittering with gold, jewels and pearls. In her hand she held a golden cup full of the earth’s filthiness and her own foul impurity.