Having good effect with words

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

1 SM 3:3B-10, 19

I wasn’t planning to update the blog until its proper debut later this month, but when the Lord speaks, you listen. (No, really, that’s the theme of today’s first reading.) I’ve always been partial to 1 SM 3:3B-10, 19, but today the last line touched something deep inside me that I feel compelled to share.

One type of prayer that we Catholics practice islectio divina, which means “Divine Reading.” It’s one of my favorites, probably because I love reading so much! The idea is to let God speak to you through the chosen text. Typically you’re reading a passage from the Bible, but I believe that you can use any text. (In fact, my monthly staff meetings feature an opening segment called “Verse” which is basically lectio divina. We take turns bringing a passage — always something secular in context — and read it to our colleagues, letting the word inspire and motivate us or prompt our reflection.)

The first step of lectio divina is to read the entire passage, letting the words wash over you. Then, for the second step, you re-read the passage slowly and savor the words. You let a word or phrase stand out to you. For the third and final step, you reflect on that segment. You wonder why God is speaking to you in those words and ask yourself what he wants you to realize. Usually you choose to engage in lectio divina, but sometimes, like today when I was praying before Mass, you end up practicing lectio divina before you realize it.

If you’re not familiar with this reading, here’s a quick summary. Samuel is training with Eli, a High Priest of Shiloh. One night when Samuel and Eli are sleeping, Samuel hears a voice calling him, thinks it’s Eli, and goes to him… only to learn that nope, it wasn’t Eli. So he goes back to bed, but it happens a couple more times before Eli realizes that Samuel is hearing the voice of God. Being the best teacher ever, Eli tells Samuel how to respond the next time he hears the voice. Samuel does, and viola! You get the line that made me pause, “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.”

Words matter. They have effect. And it is not I who has the words, but God. He helps put them into my mind, and he entrusts them to me so that I may do his work here on Earth. I do a lot of talking, so there are lots of opportunities to use my words for good effect (but also lots of opportunities for my words to do harm). Every time I speak or write, I should make sure that my words are going to have good effect.

Blogging is one way my words can have good effect. As I plan my content, I should reflect on my message’s potential impact. How are my words going to uplift someone? Can my message affirm them or inspire them? If something is bothering me in current events, can I refrain from ranting because my words might only stoke the fire? I think a lot of bloggers know intuitively that their words matter, but I’m not sure for how many that translates to a conscionable responsibility. I’d like to think that of the many blogs found on the Internet, mine stands out for its self-awareness about words’ effect.

You can find the full Sunday readings for today right here. What is God saying to you?