Today’s first reading is challenging. It admonishes us to put our rhetorical skills to good use. This is entirely in keeping with “eloquentia perfecta,” the Jesuit ideal of “right reason expressed eloquently.” In contrast to popular dismissal of “mere rhetoric,” Jesuit pedagogy stresses the integration of critical thinking with effective messaging. This is not just about setting your “face like flint,” but using moral discernment to arrive at that place where you must speak out in the hope of righting wrong.
We have seen examples of this in various human rights campaigns. But we have also seen rhetoric used to incite terrible violence and cruelty, and it has been done in the guise of moral certainty. To be effective is not to be moral. To be unwavering is not to be right. Isaiah urges us to listen and to seek God’s help that we might use our skills with both urgency and thoughtfulness.
—Bren Ortega Murphy, PhD is a faculty member in Communications Studies at Loyola University Chicago. She holds a joint appointment in Loyola’s Women’s Studies program.