1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11
A mother brings her young adult son to a Psychiatrist. "Please help my son. He thinks he is Julius Caesar." So the doctor sees the young man for an hour session every week for a year. Finally, the doctor says. "Okay, young man, you are cured. You don’t need to meet with me any more."
Two weeks later the mother brings her son back. "Please help my son. He is very depressed." The psychiatrist looks at the young man and asks him, "Why are you depressed." He answers, "Doctor, a year ago I was Julius Caesar. Today, I’m nobody."
There is an inner need we all have to be "somebody," to feel important. We want others to respect us and think well of us. We want to feel that we are successful, valuable and worthwhile. When we don’t possess a positive sell-image we get depressed. Depression holds us back from giving our best. Not giving our best leads to failure. And then we get more depressed.
Wisely St. Paul tells us today to "encourage one another and build up one another." He was always concerned about community. He knew that negative criticism, complaining and fault-finding tear down. Words of encouragement, praise and gratitude build up.
Using positive words is not just good manners or good psychology. Positive words flow from being "children of the light." With the light of faith we see the inner beauty of every person we meet. With the light of hope we see the possibilities in every person we meet. And with the light of love, we see what God’s sees, the inner goodness of every person we meet. "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good."(Genesis 1:31)
"Keep trying." "You can do it." "You’ve got what it takes." "I believe in you." "Nice going." You’re so talented." "You’re wonderful." "It’s so nice to have you around." Positive words like these that we say to one another are as important as the prayers we say for one another. As food and water give life to the body, the right words give life and energy to the human spirit.
We have been blessed with a great talent, the gift of speech. I think we could easily add a line to the Lord’s parable of the talents in Matthew 25:21: "Well said, good and faithful servant." And in Matthew 25:40: "As long as you said it to one of the least of my people, you said it to me." When we hear those encouraging words addressed to us, then we know that we are truly "somebody" in the eyes of the only one who matters.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/