The Simple and Truthful Language of Jesus: Aids for discerning deceptive speech

Diego Fares SJ

 Diego Fares SJ / Church Life / 18 January 2018

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“When Jesus spoke, he used simple words and he also used images that were examples taken from daily life in order to be easily understood by all. This is why they listened to him willingly and appreciated his message that directly touched their heart. It was not a complicated language that was difficult to understand, like that used by the doctors of the law of that time, which was not easily understood, was very rigid and distanced people. With this language, Jesus made the mystery of the Kingdom of God understood; it was not complicated theology.”[1] In a Sunday Angelus last summer, Pope Francis began his comments on the Parable of the Sower with this reflection on the language of Jesus: a simple language that goes straight to the heart. It is the opposite, the pope says, of the complicated language of a rigid theology that distances people from the mystery of the Kingdom.

The discernment between the two languages is clear: that which directly brings me closer to the love of Jesus comes from the good spirit; and that which distances me from the love of Jesus comes from the evil spirit. Employing this perspective, what can we say about the language used by some in the media that goes straight to the heart but sows poisonous discord rather than the good seed of wheat?

From time to time, one can read articles that attack the Church and the pope. Yes, the Church and the pope because it is an attack on both, even if they say they are attacking the pope in order to defend the doctrine of the Church, just as others say they are defending the pope while they criticize the Church. The language such people use does not appear complicated: clear and direct headlines about plots and power plays, hatred among Church leaders, struggles inside the Curia, notorious pastoral and political errors, and threats to the doctrine of the Church. But a simplistic language is not a simple one, even if it appears to be such, just as the weeds initially resemble good wheat.

The man in the parable discerns the situation at first glance: if there are weeds, an enemy must have sowed them there (cf. Mt 13:28). But we should not root them out before the proper time because to do so would run the risk of pulling out the wheat with them. Nevertheless, it is good to cut some away when the weeds begin to suffocate the wheat in order to allow the plants to breathe. In a conversation, when voices are raised and words begin to wound, if one hopes to continue a dialogue it is necessary to lower the tone and pay attention to the language employed.

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