In the gospel today we are given two central tenets of our faith. Jesus gives his disciples the “New Commandment: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you so you should love one another”. And we are also given the hope that if we do this loving as Jesus loved, we too will inherit glory. “Love and glory, love and glory, go together like…the Jesus story” as the song might have gone!
But I need to speak about something that has been concerning me for a while; it has been vexing Pope Francis too, GOSSIP. Pope Francis said recently to crowds in St Peter’s in Rome, “It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,…I tell you the truth, I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!” “Do we want to become saints? Yes or no?” he queried, as the crowds replied, “Yes!” “Yes? Do we want to live attached to gossip as a habit?” Pope Francis continued, “Yes or no? No? Okay, so we are in agreement! No gossip!”
Gossip is a sin against the commandment not to murder. It is defamation of character…a little murder; character assassination if you will. It is one of the tools of those who are wrecking our political systems here and abroad, attacks on the person (sometimes referred to as ad hominem attacks) rather than diligent debate about issues seems to be the destructive path of least resistance. It is verbal violence with no love in it and leads to perdition rather than glory.
I’m also concerned that it is a sin that rears its ugly head in the parish too. In my position as Pastor, I, and other members of the parish team, receive anonymous mail, emails, etc.; some of it, libelous, most of it just plain wrong, or often worst of all – AND MOST USUALLY – made up, putting words in my mouth that I assure you would never come out. An example was a gossip saying I condemned a person in the parish for an event that happened when I did not know about the event concerned, and I was in Africa when I was supposed to have said it to a parishioner! This is crazy, vulgar and sinful. So I’m asking us all to be mindful of what we say but also be careful what we hear and see and don’t let imagination, or our own personal agendas get the better of our good judgement. As Pope Francis says, “No gossip”. If you are unhappy with me or something going on please come and see me so we can sort it out as friends. Also, I consider anonymous communications to be cowardly as they don’t give anyone the chance to respond; they presume a validity of content which by its very anonymity must be questionable. Also, email correspondence which never results in a face to face get together to resolve anything is, in the end, very unconstructive and wearying.
I’m sorry this picnic weekend to have to write on such matters, but, it’s a papal concern too so I felt I had to let you know what has been going on and where I stand on such matters.
May God bless you, your families, and the week ahead,
Fr Aidan Peter