We are surrounded by devices that we use to communicate. Our cellphones not only make phone calls, but they can record video and take pictures. The computers we use at home and at work monitor what websites we visit and store every email we send. Just about every screen we look at also has microphones and cameras that, in turn, could be looking at us. Every street corner, stop light, and store have security cameras that store footage of us every time we step in front of them. Even some private homes have cameras recording not only what is going on in their property but in the street and in their neighbors’ yards. What if it turned out that all these devices were recording everything that we say? What if, somewhere out there, there is a huge database with your and my names on it keeping track of everything we’ve said, every email and text message we’ve sent, and every image we’ve looked at over the past 10 years or so? Worse still, what if, for some reason, all that information was broadcast to the world? What if our neighbors could hear everything, we’ve ever said about them? What if our parents could discover everything we’ve said and done behind their backs? Chances are we have said many things in private that we would never have said if we knew they were being recorded. What we have said would probably reveal that we are not the kind and sympathetic people we want others to believe we are. It could be that our words reveal our prejudices, our ignorance, and our pettiness. In today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach, we hear that our faults appear when we open our mouths. What we say reveals the kind of person we are. We’ve all had the experience of “putting our foot in our mouths”, that is, saying something thoughtless or offensive. We might apologize right away and say we didn’t mean it. But, in fact, we blurted out the mean thoughts that we had been carrying around with us. It is not that we didn’t mean to say it, but that we didn’t want others to hear it. Jesus speaks about this also in today’s gospel: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” Therefore, if our hearts are full of love, goodness, and compassion we will say loving, good, and compassionate words. However, if our hearts are full of resentment, malice, and spite, we will say resentful, malicious, and spiteful things. Whatever we are cultivating in our hearts through our thoughts is what will come out when we open our mouths. Thankfully, we can choose which thoughts we want to allow into our hearts and what words we speak with our lips. Though thoughts often pop up spontaneously in our minds, we can choose either to dwell on them or to dismiss them. If we dwell on pure and loving thoughts, we will become pure and loving people and that will be reflected in our speech. It is clear that we can do a lot of harm through what we say. But it is also true that our speech has the power to do a lot of good. What are some ways that we can begin today to use our tongues in positive and uplifting ways? • Expressing gratitude is a beautiful way to use our power of speech. A simple “thank you” can mean so much to someone. • Another way we can use our power of speech for good is by encouraging others. A sincere compliment can do wonders for a person. • Speaking out for those who cannot defend themselves is also an important way that we can use our power of speech. • Finally, one great way that we can use our power of speech is by deciding to remain silent. Choosing not to speak is often the wisest thing we can do. Sometimes, we should be doing more listening than speaking. What we choose to say reveals the type of person we are. Spend a few minutes today thinking about what you have said lately. What does it reveal about you? And if you discover that you have said some unkind words and haven’t been as grateful and supportive as you could have been, there is a place you can go where there are no cameras and no recording devices. It is the Sacrament of Confession. There you can use your power of speech to confess to God your sinfulness and weakness. And there you can hear words of mercy and forgiveness. In this great sacrament of God’s love, Jesus heals hearts that are wounded and makes them more loving. With hearts transformed by God’s love, we can then speak tenderly to others.