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In the second reading of this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Times, St. Paul urges us not to grieve the Holy Spirit and then goes on to list a few things that we should not be doing—unforgiveness, unwholesome speech, anger and bitterness, slander, and bad attitudes toward others. Apparently, we bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way we live.

In order not to grieve the Holy Spirit, St. Paul urges that we must forgive others just as God has forgiven us. This issue of forgiveness keeps coming up again and again even to the point that Christ included it in the prayer He taught His apostles. It is an Old Testament and New Testament theme that we cannot avoid. Forgiveness has so much to do with the way we live our lives. We need to forgive others, not because they deserve it, but because we deserve to live in peace for every minute we live in unforgiveness we lose sixty seconds of happiness. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and it is important to know that the prisoner that is being set free is you.

St. Paul also talks about guarding against unwholesome speech. Scripture says, “Let every word that comes from your mouth be such that it is edifying to those who hear it.” Ours is to encourage others at every chance we get because our words may be the only pillar of strength left to help someone stand up and pull through. You never know how soon it will be too late. How we make others feel about themselves says a lot about who we are.

Paul also points out the need to guard against unholy anger. Anger can be very destructive because it can consume and subsume our self-control making us think, say, and do things we will, most probably, regret later. A Chinese proverb says, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” Anger, when vented thoughtlessly, can hurt others and be very destructive. If bottled up inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within. Anger nursed is a safe haven for the devil.

Paul goes on to warn against slander and gossip. The Bible says that “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip and liars pay close attention to slander” (Proverb 17:4). It is always good to know that gossips and slander are not victimless crimes for they do not dissipate into thin air. Lies and vicious rumors can forcefully, painfully, and lastingly injure, maim, and destroy lives, sully reputations, ruin careers, and damage people’s futures. The words we speak have so much power to effect good or evil. We must carefully and wisely choose what we do with our speech.

Ours is to bring love, joy, and peace into our lives by choosing to hear and speak only positive, uplifting, kind, and caring words; by choosing to touch hearts in a positive and meaningful way; by choosing to inspire others to goodness and to truly make a difference in this world. At the end of each day, let us ask this question of ourselves: Did I bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit or glory to God with my words, attitudes, and actions?

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