“And they began to speak.”—Acts ii, 4.
Of the word of God as preached by the Apostles, by which the Church was propagated on earth after the Ascension of Christ, St. Paul testifies that it extended to the farthest limits. Beyond a doubt, the Apostles literally fulfilled the divine commission: “Going, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Had mankind universally accepted the preaching of the Apostles, their mission, united with the power of miracles, which accompanied the apostolic word, would have been sufficient to illuminate, during every age of the world’s existence, the whole human race in things of salvation, and to lead all men to the way of truth, until they would safely rest in the embrace of their Mother the Holy Church. But, alas! although thousands were converted by those sermons, the Apostles still met with opposition and resistance in the very beginning; for the evening shadows of the feast, which had been go gloriously ushered in, found St. Peter and St. John already in prison, and the prohibition of the authorities was made known to them; no longer were they to preach in the name of Jesus, Whose commands they must cease to obey.
But the prince of the Apostles, and his zealous band of co-laborers, enriched with the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost, were restrained neither by threats nor chastisements from doing their duty. Hell robbed of so many souls long regarded by Satan as his prey, was quick to place every impediment in their way: but they surmounted them all.
And what, beloved in Christ, was and is still the most pernicious means employed by diabolical at to render fruitless the work of the Word and promote the destruction of the kingdom of good by the powers of darkness? I say it is the abuse of the tongue.
O Mary, who by crushing the serpent’s head, didst vanquish hell, obtain for us grace to conquer the enemies of the Church with the power of the divine Word.
I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the honor and glory of God.
What a fearful weapon the tongue can be in the power of wicked men! Lucifer makes use of it to attack the kingdom of God on earth, as he employed it to work the ruin of our first parents in the garden of Eden, and therewith with the woe of their hapless posterity. It was the enticing promises, made by the wily tongue of the serpent to Eve, which caused her to fall. It is by the word of seduction that he would fain, if that could be possible, render fruitless the work of the Redemption of man.
Christ, the Word of God made man, entered into this world; but as soon as Mary presented Him in the temple, Simeon, inspired by God, lifted up his voice and declared that the divine Child should be placed as a sign for the ruin and salvation of many. Even as, on the one hand, it is by the Word, as enunciated by the ministers of God by which the tidings of revelations are set to reach the human race, that men may become illumined by faith, become children of the Church, and serve its divine Founder, until rewarded by eternal happiness:—so, on the other, there is a word which is employed in the service of Lucifer as a means not only to destroy or prevent as much as possible the effects of the divine Word, but to spread or to promote the kingdom of evil.
The Gospel, the Epistles, and the Acts of the Apostles themselves give testimony of this, together with the entire history of the Church until to-day. The symbol of the sanctified tongues of fire is not only the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but also of His evil adversary.
As those burning tongues were emblematic of the ardor of divine love, so is the fire, which glows in lurid light upon the tongues of the damned, a sign of hatred to God and his kingdom. These diabolical tongues vent their wickedness in various ways.
First, there is the lying tongue, the tongue of calumny, which can be found in every part of the world.
Even as Christ promised and sent the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, so that the tongue which, under the influence of the devil, wages perpetual war against the kingdom of truth, is the tongue that propagates lies. Holy Scripture calls the devil a liar from the beginning—"the “father of lies.”
Man, made according to the image of God, longs for truth. God is truth. This desire is so great that man often mistakes falsehoods for truth, but only so far as it has the appearance of that quality; and hence the efforts of the emissaries of hell to deform and distort the sense of the divine Word, as they did even in the days of Christ, for we read: “They went forth to ensnare Him in His speech.” They distorted the meaning of His doctrine, to calumniate Him; and although Christ solemnly declared that He came not to destroy but to fulfill the law, they asserted before the people that He was an enemy of Moses and of the Law.
And although He enjoined them “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” they asserted that He promulgated sedition against him.
The fire which glowed on their tongues was the flame of hatred toward Christ and His kingdom. For, although the Saviour demonstrated to them His advent from the writings of the Prophets themselves, performed miracles, even raised the dead to life, yet they stretched forth their tongues against Him to cry out: “Crucify Him! crucify Him!”
Three millions of tongues were then stretched forth against Christ, inflamed with the hatred and envy of hell! And who would be able to compute the millions and millions which, in the course of nineteen hundred years, have wagged their heads against Him, not in Jerusalem alone, but over the whole world? The Jews, dispersed over the earth, manifested constant opposition to the Gospel, we learn from the Acts of the Apostles, on almost every page. The Jews of Rome, indeed, did not pretend to deny the fact; but said, to the very face of St. Paul: “We know, in regard to that sect called Christian, that it is every-where contradicted.” This opposition of the and in what point was Satan most solicitous among to the doctrines of Christianity, that he might render the Gospel hateful to men.
How often, too, nowadays, in China and Japan, does not the distortion of the doctrine of the Real Presence,—that Christ is truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,—serve as a means to calumniate the Church when its members are accused of eating human flesh, and slaughtering innocent children for that purpose? And if we think, further, of the venom of heretical tongues, are not almost all the articles of faith which Protestants generally attack distorted by them, and the tales they promulgate or us mere inventions? And this, notwithstanding the fact that the hundreds and hundreds of learned men, during there centuries, have told them over and over again the real truth.
And yet the tongues of those blatant ministers of the Protestant sects arrayed Christ and His Church! They continue to utter their vile calumnies: Yet, if infidels and heretics would, with impartiality, tell what they know our faith, few indeed would obey the voice of the tempter which poisons their minds. What fills men with disgust toward the Church and her ministers are those lying tongues, which disfigure the reality, the aim, and the end.
If this be true of the spoken word, it is no less so of the far more pernicious influence of the press, which changes the word into just so many tongues as there are words in the volumes, to furnish the poison of lies to the world.
O God, how many myriads of flaming tongues do we not find therein stretched forth against Thee and Thy Holy Church impregnated with the blackest of hate! And if this be true of the Church in general, it is no less so with regard to the kingdom of God in the hearts of her children. How many[TD1] tongues move daily to weaken the religious convictions of youth, and to ruin their principles of morality! They not only ridicule those who lead good and pious lives, but they try to loosen the bonds of fraternal union which should unite men together.
To these belong the tongues of slanderers, detractors, and tale-bearers: also those who give utterance to that vain boasting which grows more and more common, and those who wag in rude contradiction, in quarrels, and in disrespect to the Divine Name.
Further, the tongues of those who seductive words lead others to commit mortal sin, especially the vice of impurity. What, indeed, is more common than the practice of sinful conversation, which can not be too severely censured, of which the seducer makes use to corrupt his victim?
In addition to the above, a great many sins are committed by an inordinate love of talk, and by unnecessary visits and amusements. It is the tongue which, in all these instances, does Satan most service when he sets forth to destroy the kingdom of good in the hearts of mankind, and in its place to establish the rule of infidelity or indifference to matters of faith. Who can not see, at first glance, that it is the tongue of which Satan makes most use to spread the kingdom of evil—to disturb the dominion of God? Is it not astonishing to reflect with what success hell always makes use of the word in its diabolical efforts? By spreading false maxims of life, Satan poisons the judgment of public opinion, and knows how to give wrong the appearance of right. Those would work the moral ruin of man are made to appear as the friends of humanity, while the world calls ignorance of the duties of religion, enlightenment and culture. It tries, by every means, to gain youth by giving them false views of life, and filling them with hatred against the Church and her priests.
And then, have not the emissaries of hell the daily press under their control? Pamphlets are constantly being scattered among men to prove that science has taken the place of religion, and that bitter is the conflict raging between them.
And if, beloved in Christ, this is done with an outlay of so much money and zeal on the part of the antagonists of the Church through vanity and malice, should not the children of the Church emulate these evil exertions in an opposite direction, and do all in their power to disseminate good books over the world? We should also take care that we, ourselves, are thoroughly instructed in matters of faith, and then take every opportunity to aid in the enlightening of others.
We should support the Catholic press, and distribute pamphlets to counteract, as much as possible, the effects of those sent forth by the apostles of hell.
Let us act in this manner, and the kingdom of God will increase in the world, and, with it, our merits through the constant imitation of the apostolic Christian—Amen! (Father Francis X. Weninger, S.J., Original, Short and Practical Sermons for Every Feast of the Liturgical Year: Three Sermons for Every Feast, published originally by C. J. H. Lowen, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1882, pp. 419-426.)