Gossip

Gossip  Pope Francis 27.03.13          

Matthew 26: 14-25

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies1/gossip/27.03.13.jpg

Never speak poorly of other people.
Jesus was like a commodity; he was sold. He was sold at that moment, and also very frequently sold in the market of history, in the market of life, in the market of our lives. When we opt for thirty pieces of silver, we set Jesus aside.

When we visit an acquaintance and the conversation turns into gossip, into back-stabbing and the person at the centre of our babbling “becomes a commodity. I do not know why, but there is some arcane pleasure in scandalmongering. We begin with kind words, “but then comes the gossip. And we begin to tear the other person to pieces”. And it is then that we must remember that every time we behave like this, “we are doing what Judas did”; when he went to the chief priests to sell Jesus, his heart was closed, he had no understanding, no love and no friendship.  “We think of and ask for forgiveness”, because what we do to the other, to our friend, “we do to Jesus. Because Jesus is in this friend”. And if we realize that our gossiping can hurt someone, “let us pray the Lord, let us speak to the Lord about this, for the good of the other: Lord, help him”. So it must not be me, who does justice with my own tongue. Let us ask the Lord for this grace.



We asked the Lord to show the world the fullness of new life. After Jesus’ Resurrection a new life begins: as Jesus told Nicodemus, who, a little earlier had answered Jesus: ‘but how can a man be born again, return to his mother’s womb and be born anew?’. Jesus was speaking of another dimension: ‘to be born from on high’, to be born of the Spirit . It is the new life we received in Baptism but which we must develop.

We must do our utmost to ensure that this life develops into new life. And what will this new life be like? It is not that we say today: ‘Yes, I was born today, that’s that, I am starting again’. It is a journey, an arduous journey we must toil to achieve. Yet it does not only depend on us: it depends mainly on the Spirit and we must open ourselves to the Spirit so that he creates this new life within us.

In the First Reading, we have as it were a foretaste, a preview of what ‘new life’ will and should be like. The multitude of those who had become believers were of one heart and one soul: that unity, unanimity and harmony of feelings of
love, mutual love, thinking “others are better than me”, and this is lovely isn’t it?

But this does not happen automatically after Baptism. It must be brought about within us, “on the journey through life by the Spirit”. “This
gentleness is a somewhat forgotten virtue: being gentle, making room for others. There are so many enemies of gentleness, aren’t there? Starting with gossip. When people prefer to tell tales, to gossip about others, to give others a few blows. These are daily events that happen to everyone, and to me too. They are temptations of the Evil One, who does not want the Spirit to create this gentleness, in Christian communities. In the parish the ladies of catechesis quarrel with the ladies of Caritas. These conflicts always exist, in the family, in the neighbourhood, even among friends. And this is not new life. When the Spirit causes us to be born to new life, he makes us gentle and kind, not judgmental: the only Judge is the Lord. The proposal to be silent fits in here. “If I have something to say, let me say it to the individual, not to the entire neighbourhood; only to the one who can remedy the situation”.

This, is only one step. If, with the grace of the Spirit, we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great and beautiful step ahead and will do everyone good. Let us ask the Lord to show us and the world the beauty and fullness of this new life, of being born of the Spirit, of treating each other with
kindness, with respect. Let us ask for this grace for us all.



Gossip, is destructive to the Church. Jesus often spoke of this to Peter and to all the others. He asked Peter several times “if he loved him, if he loved him more than the others. Peter said ‘yes’, and the Lord gave him his role: ‘feed my sheep’”. This was “a real, loving conversation”. However, at a certain point, Peter was tempted to interfere in the life of someone else (cf. Jn 21:20-25).

Peter, was a human being and so could not but likewise be tempted to interfere in the life of others, “as the vulgar expression says, to ‘stick his nose into other people’s affairs’”. This also happens in our lives as Christians. How often, are we tempted to do this? Dialogue “with Jesus has been diverted to a different track”. This interference in others’ lives comes in many different forms. The
constant comparison of oneself to others, and gossip, which is literally, “flaying each other”. Three other common forms of negative behaviour, are misinformation, false accusation, and calumny.




Pope Francis   16.02.14  Holy Mass  Pastoral visit to the Roman Parish  San Tommaso Apostolo         Matthew 5: 17-37       
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A      

One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it [rubbing his hands together] and ate the grain. And they [the Pharisees] said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!”. And Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul”. And I believe that it it would do us good today to think not about whether my soul is clean or dirty, but rather about what is in my heart, what do I have inside, what I know I have but no one else knows. 

Being honest with yourself is not easy! Because we always try to cover it up when we see something wrong inside, no? So that it doesn’t come out, don’t we? What is in our heart: is it love? Let us think: do I love my parents, my children, my wife, my husband, people in the neighbourhood, the sick?... Do I love? Is there hate? Do I hate someone? Often we find hatred, don’t we? “I love everyone except for this one, this one and that one!”. That’s hatred, isn’t it? What is in my heart, forgiveness? Is there an attitude of forgiveness for those who have offended me, or is there an attitude of revenge — “he will pay for it!”. We must ask ourselves what is within, because what is inside comes out and harms, if it is evil; and if it is good, it comes out and does good. And it is so beautiful to tell ourselves the truth, and feel ashamed when we are in a situation that is not what God wants, it is not good; when my heart feels hatred, revenge, so many situations are sinful. How is my heart?...

Jesus said today, for example — I will give only one example: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘you shall not kill’. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother has killed him in his heart”. And whoever insults his brother, kills him in his heart, whoever hates his brother, kills his brother in his heart; whoever gossips against his brother, kills him in his heart. Maybe we are not conscious of it, and then we talk, “we write off” this person or that, we speak ill of this or that ... And this is killing our brother.

That is why it is important to know what is inside, what is happening in my heart. If one understands his brother, the people, he loves his brother, because he forgives: he understands, he forgives, he is patient.... Is this love or hate? We must be sure of this. 

And we must ask the Lord for two graces. The first: to know what is in our own heart, not to deceive ourselves, not to live in deceit. The second grace: to do what is good in our hearts and not to do the evil that is in our hearts. 

And as for “killing”, remember that words can kill. Even ill-will toward another kills. Often, when we listen to people talking, saying evil things about others, it seems like the sin of slander. The sin of defamation had been removed from the Ten Commandments and yet to speak evil of a person is still a sin. Why is speaking ill of another a sin? Because there is hatred in my heart, aversion, not love. 

We must always ask for this grace: to know what is happening in our heart, to constantly make the right choice, the choice for good. And that the Lord help us to love one another. And if I cannot love another well, why not? Pray for that person, pray that the Lord make me love him. And like this we move forward, remembering that what taints our lives is the evil that comes from our hearts. And that the Lord can help us.






Pope Francis  04.09.15  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)   Friday of 22nd Week of Ordinary Time Year B       Colossians 1: 15-20


In a passage of the Letter to the Colossians (1:15-20), Paul describes Jesus’ i.d. card. Basically, the Apostle asks, just who is this Christ that we have seen among us?. And he gives this response: He is the first. He is the first-born of God, the first-born of all creation, for in him things were created, all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together and are reconciled.

To the Colossians Paul presents Jesus-God: Jesus is God, he is greater. First of all he is the beginning, the Creator. The first-born of everyone, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. Paul goes so far that when he speaks about who Jesus is, it seems somewhat exaggerated, does it not?. Yes, the Father sent this Jesus so that through him and for him all things were reconciled, peace was made by the blood of his cross.

Jesus, Paul tells us, reconciled mankind with God. Thus, peace is the action of Jesus, of his blood, of his work, of humbling himself by obeying until death, death on the Cross.

Thus, Jesus made peace for us and reconciled us. Such that when we speak of peace or reconciliation — small-scale peace, minor reconciliations — we must consider the great peace and the great reconciliation, that which Jesus made. We must understand that without him peace is not possible; without him reconciliation is not possible. This discourse also applies to us, who every day hear news of wars, of hatred. Moreover, even in families there is fighting. Thus, our task is to follow that path so as to be men and women of peace, men and women of reconciliation.

It will do us good to ask ourselves: Do I sow peace? For example, with my tongue, do I sow peace or do I sow discord? How many times have we heard that a person has a serpent’s tongue, because he does what the serpent did with Adam and Eve, he destroyed the peace. This, is an evil, this is an ill in our Church: sowing divisiveness, sowing hate, not sowing peace. Today have I sown peace or have I sown discord?. And don’t try to justify yourself by suggesting that sometimes you have to say things because this or that.... what are you really sowing with this attitude?.

Jesus, the First One, came to us to make peace, to reconcile. As a result, if a person, during her life, does nothing but reconcile and make peace, she should be canonized: that person is a saint!. However, we must grow in this, we must convert: never a word to divide, never, never a word to cause conflicts, little conflicts, never gossip. Gossip; what is it, really? It seems like nothing. It amounts to saying a few words about another person or telling a story, such as: This person did.... But in reality it isn’t so. Gossiping is an act of terrorism, because gossip is like terrorists who drop a bomb and leave. They destroy: with the tongue they destroy, they don’t make peace. But they’re clever, eh? They aren’t suicide bombers, no, no, they protect themselves well!

In Jesus all things are reconciled, peace is made by the blood of his cross. Thus, the price is high. Every time your mouth is about to say something that sows discord and divisiveness and to speak ill of another person the sound advice is to bite your tongue!. And, I assure you that if you do this exercise of biting your tongue instead of sowing discord, the first few times your tongue will swell, wounded, because the devil helps to do this because it is his work, it is his job to divide!

Before continuing this sacrifice — this is the sacrifice of reconciliation; here the Lord comes and we do the same as on Calvary. Lord you gave your life, give me the grace to make peace, to reconcile. You poured out your blood, let it not concern me should my tongue swell a little if I bite it before speaking ill of others. Let us thank the Lord for reconciling us with the Father, forgiving our sins, and giving us the opportunity to have peace in our souls.





Pope Francis   15.01.17   Holy Mass, Roman Parish of Santa Maria A Setteville      Second Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A     John 1: 29-34

 
Pope Francis 15.01.17 Santa Maria
The Gospel presents us John at the moment in which he bears witness to Jesus. Seeing Jesus come toward him, he says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me’” (Jn 1:29-30). This is the Messiah. He bears witness. And several disciples, upon hearing this testimony — John’s disciples — follow Jesus: they go after Him and are happy: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). They felt Jesus’ presence. But why did they encounter Jesus? Because there was a witness; because there was a man who bore witness to Jesus.

This is how it happens in our life. There are many Christians who profess that Jesus is God; there are many priests who profess that Jesus is God, many bishops.... But does everyone bear witness to Jesus? Or is being Christian ... a way of life like another, like being the fan of a team? ‘Yes, I’m a Christian...’. Or having a philosophy: ‘I follow these commandments, I’m a Christian, I must do this...’. Being Christian, first of all, is bearing witness to Jesus. The first thing. This is what the Apostles did: the Apostles bore witness to Jesus, and because of this, Christianity spread throughout the world. Witness and martyrdom: the same thing. One bears witness in small ways, and some reach greatness, giving their life in martyrdom, like the Apostles. But the Apostles did not take a course to become witnesses to Jesus; they did not study, they did not go to university. They felt the Spirit within and followed the inspiration of the Spirit; they were faithful to this. But they were sinners, all! The Twelve were sinners. ‘No, Father, only Judas!’. No, poor man.... We do not know what happened after his death, because there is also God’s mercy at that moment. But all were sinners, every one. Envious, they had jealousy among them: ‘No, I must have the first place, and you the second’; and two of them spoke to their mother so she went to ask Jesus to give the first place to her sons.... They were like this, with all their sins. They were also traitors, because when Jesus was captured, they all fled, full of fear; they hid: they were frightened. And Peter, who knew he was in charge, felt the need to come a little closer to see what was happening; and when the priest’s housekeeper said: ‘You too were...’, he said: ‘No, no, no!’. He denied Jesus; he betrayed Jesus. Peter! The first Pope. He betrayed Jesus. These are witnesses! Yes, because they were witnesses of the salvation that Jesus brings, and everyone converted for this salvation, they let themselves be saved. It is beautiful when, on the riverbank, Jesus performed that miracle [the miraculous catch of fish] and Peter says: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Being a witness does not mean being a saint, but being a poor man, a poor woman who says: ‘Yes, I am a sinner, but Jesus is the Lord and I bear witness to him, and I seek to do good every day, to correct my life, to take the right path’.

I would only like to leave you a message. We all understand this, what I have said: sinful witnesses. But, reading the Gospel, I do not find one [certain type of] sin in the Apostles. There were some brutes, who wanted to burn down a village that had not welcomed them.... They had many sins: traitors, cowards.... But I do not find one [in particular]: they were not gossipmongers; they did not speak ill of others, they did not speak badly of one another. In this they were good. They did not ‘rip off others’. I think of our communities: how many times this sin of ‘flaying one another’, of disparaging, of believing oneself superior to another and secretly speaking ill! In the Gospel, they did not do this. They did terrible things; they betrayed the Lord, but did not do this. Even in one parish, in one community who knows where ... this one cheated, this one did that..., but then they confess, they convert.... We are all sinners. But a community where there are gossipmongers is a community that is incapable of bearing witness.

I will say only this: do you want a perfect parish? No gossiping. None. If you have something against another, go and say it to his face, or tell the parish priest; but not among yourselves. This is a sign that the Holy Spirit is in a parish. Other sins, we all have them. There is a collection of sins: one takes this, one takes that, but we are all sinners. But like a woodworm, what destroys a community is gossip, behind others’ backs.

I would like this community, on this day of my visit, to make the resolution not to gossip. When you have the desire to gossip, bite your tongue: it will swell, but it will do you so much good, because in the Gospel these witnesses to Jesus — sinners: they even betrayed the Lord! — they never gossiped about one another. This is beautiful. A parish where there is no gossip is a perfect parish; it is a parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses. This is the witness that the first Christians bore: ‘As they love each other, as they love each other!’. Love each other at least in this. May the Lord give you this gift, this grace: never, never speak ill of one another. Thank you.







Pope Francis    03.03.19     Angelus St Peter's Square   Luke 6: 39-45
Pope Francis 03.03.19 Gossip

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel passage presents brief parables with which Jesus seeks to indicate to his disciples the path to follow in order to live wisely. With the question: can a blind man lead a blind man?” (Lk 6:39), he wishes to emphasize that a leader cannot be blind, but must see clearly, that is, he must have wisdom in order to lead wisely, otherwise he risks causing damage to the people who are entrusted to him. Jesus thus calls attention to those who have educational responsibility or who govern: spiritual pastors, public authorities, legislators, teachers, parents, exhorting them to be aware of their delicate role and to always discern the right path on which to lead people.

And Jesus borrows a wise expression in order to designate himself as an example of teacher and leader to be followed: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher” (v. 40). It is a call to follow his example and his teaching in order to be sound and wise leaders. And this teaching is included above all in the Sermon on the Mount — which, in the past three Sundays the liturgy has offered us in the Gospel — indicating the attitude of meekness and of mercy in order to be honest, humble and just people. In today’s passage we find another significant phrase, which exhorts us to be neither presumptuous nor hypocritical. It says: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (v. 41). So often, as we all know, it is easy or convenient to see and condemn the flaws and sins of others, without being able to see our own with such clarity. We always hide our flaws; we even hide them from ourselves; while it is easy to see the flaws of others. The temptation is to be indulgent with ourselves — lenient with ourselves — and severe with others. It is always useful to help one’s neighbour with wise advice, but while we observe and correct our neighbour’s flaws, we must be aware that we too have flaws. If I believe I have none, I cannot condemn or correct others. We all have flaws: everyone. We must be aware of them, and, before condemning others, we must look within ourselves. In this way we can act in a credible way, with humility, witnessing to charity.

How can we understand if our view is clear or if it is obstructed by a log? And again Jesus tells us so: “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit” (vv. 43-44). The fruits are actions but also words. A tree’s quality can also be understood from words. Indeed, those who are good draw good from their hearts and their mouths, and those who are bad draw bad, by practicing the most damaging exercise among us, which is grumbling, gossiping, speaking ill of others. This destroys. It destroys the family, destroys school, destroys the workplace, destroys the neighbourhood. Wars begin from the tongue. Let us consider a bit this lesson of Jesus and ask ourselves the question: do I speak ill of others? Do I always seek to tarnish others? Is it easier for me to see others’ flaws than my own? And let us try to correct ourselves at least a little: it will do us all good.

Let us invoke Mary’s support and intercession in order to follow the Lord on this journey.





Pope Francis  21.04.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)   Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter     Acts 4: 32-37,    John 3: 7-15

Pope Francis Christian communities 21.04.20

In this time there is so much silence. You can also hear the silence. May this silence, which is a little new in our habits, teach us to listen, make us grow in our ability to listen. Let us pray for it.

"To be born from above" (John 3:7) is to be born with the strength of the Holy Spirit. We cannot take hold of the Holy Spirit for ourselves; we can only allow him transform us. And our docility opens the door to the Holy Spirit: it is he who makes the change, transformation, this rebirth from above. It is Jesus' promise to send the (cf. Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit is capable of doing wonders, things that we cannot even think of.

An example is this first Christian community, which is not a fantasy, what they tell us here: it is a model, which can be achieved when there is docility and let the Holy Spirit in and transform us. We can say that this is an "ideal" community. It is true that soon after this problems will begin, but the Lord shows us how far we can go if we are open to the Holy Spirit, if we are docile. In this community there is harmony (cf. Acts 4:32-37). The Holy Spirit is the master of harmony, he is capable of doing it and he has done it here. He must do it in our hearts, he must change so many things about us, to make harmony: because he himself is harmony. The harmony between the Father and the Son and he is also the love of harmony, He. And with harmony he creates things such as this harmonious community. But then, history tells us – the Book of Acts of the Apostles itself – of so many problems in the community. This is a model: the Lord has allowed this model of an almost "heavenly" community to show us where we should go.

But then the divisions began in the community. The Apostle James, in the second chapter of his Letter, says: "May your faith be immune from personal favouritism" (James 2:1): because they were there! "Don't discriminate": the apostles must go out and warn this. And Paul, in the first Letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 11, complains: "I have heard that there are divisions among you" (cf. 1Cor 11:18): internal divisions begin in communities. This "ideal" must be arrived at, but it is not easy: there are many things that divide a community, whether a Christian parish or diocesan community or of priests or religious. So many things come in to divide the community.

Seeing the things that have divided the first Christian communities, I find three: first, money. When the Apostle James says this, not to have personal favouritism, he gives an example because "if in your church, in your assembly someone enters with a golden ring, and they immediately bring him to the front of the community, and the poor person is left on the side" (cf. James 2:2). Money. Paul himself says the same: "The rich bring food and they eat, and the poor standing" (cf. 1Cor 11:20-22), we leave them there as if to say to them: "Take care of yourselves as you can." Money divides, the love of money divides the community, divides the Church.

Many times, in the history of the Church, where there are doctrinal deviations – not always, but often – behind it is money: the money of power, both political power, and cash, but it is money. Money divides the community. For this reason, poverty is the mother of the community, poverty is the wall that guards the community. Money and self-interest divide. Even in families: how many families have ended up divided by an inheritance? How many families? And they never speak anymore ... How many families ... An inheritance ... They divide: money divides.

Another thing that divides a community is vanity, that desire to feel better than others. "I thank you, Lord, because I am not like the others" (cf. Luke 18:11), the prayer of the Pharisee. Vanity, makes me feel this ... And even the vanity to be seen, vanity in habits, in dressing: how many times – not always but how many times – the celebration of a sacrament is an example of vanity, who goes with the best clothes, who does that and the other ... Vanity ... For the biggest party ... That's where vanity comes in. And vanity divides. Because vanity leads you to be like a peacock and where there is a peacock, there is division, always.

A third thing that divides a community is gossip: it is not the first time I have said this, but it is reality. It's reality. That thing the devil puts in us, like a need to talk about others. "But what a good person he is ..." – "Yes, yes, but ...": immediately the "but": that is a stone to disqualify the other person and right away I say something that I have heard and so the other person is diminished a little.

But the Holy Spirit always comes with his strength to save us from this worldliness of money, vanity and gossip, because the Spirit is not of the world: is against the world. He is capable of doing these miracles, these great things.

Let us ask the Lord for this docility to the Spirit so that he may transform us and transform our communities, our parish, diocesan, religious communities: transform them, to always move forward in the harmony that Jesus wants for the Christian community.




Pope Francis   28.04.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)    Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter   Acts 7: 51 - 8: 1

Pope Francis Santa Marta 28.04.20

In this time when we begin to have provisions to exit quarantine, let us pray to the Lord to give his people, to all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the provisions, so that the pandemic does not return.

In the first Reading of these days we listened to Stephen's martyrdom: it's a simple thing, that happened. The doctors of the Law did not tolerate the clarity of the doctrine, and as it came out they went to ask someone to say that they had heard that Stephen blaspheme against God, against the Law. And after that, they attacked him and stoned him: simple as that. It is a structure of action that is not the first: they did the same with Jesus . They tried to convince the people who were there that he was a blasphemer and they shouted: "Crucify him." This is acting like beasts. Acting like beasts, starting with false testimonies to arrive at injustice. That's the pattern. Even in the Bible there are cases like this: they did the same to Susanna , they did the same to Naboth, then Aman tried to do the same with the people of God. False news, slander that ignites the people who then demand justice. It's a lynching, a real lynching.

And so, they bring it to the judge, for the judge to give legal formality to this: but he has already been judged, the judge must be very, very brave to go against such a popular judgment, done on purpose, prepared. This is the case of Pilate: Pilate clearly saw that Jesus was innocent, but he saw the people, he washed his hands of it. It's a way of doing law. Even today we see it: it takes place even today, in some countries, when they want to make a coup or take out some politician so that he does not go to the elections or whatever, this is done: false news, slander, then they rely on a judge that is to their liking to create law in these types of situations that lead to a condemnation. It's a social lynching. And this is what was done with Stephen, that's how Stephen's judgment was made: brought to be judged, someone who had already been judged by the deceived people.

This also happens with today's martyrs: that judges have no chance of doing justice because they come already judged. Let us think of Asia Bibi, for example, that we have seen: ten years in prison because she had been judged by slander and a people who wanted her death. In the face of this avalanche of false news that creates opinion, so often nothing can be done: nothing can be done.

I think a lot about this, the Holocaust. The Holocaust is such an example: an opinion was created against a people and then it was normal: "Yes, yes: they must be killed, they must be killed". This is a way to proceed to get rid of people who are bothering you, disturbing you.

We all know that this is not good, but what we do not know is that there is a small daily lynching that tries to condemn people, to create a bad reputation for people, to discard them, to condemn them: the little daily lynching of gossip that creates an opinion. And so often we hear someone say: "But no, this person is a good person!" – "No , no: it is said that ...", and with that "it is said that" you create an opinion to take down a person.
 
Truth is something else: truth is the testimony of the truth, of the things that a person believes; the truth is clear, it is transparent. Truth does not tolerate oppression. Let us look at Stephen, a martyr: the first martyr after Jesus. The first martyr. Let us think of the apostles: they have all given witness. And let us think of so many martyrs who – even the one of today, St. Peter Chanel – it was the chatter that created the opinion that he was against the king ... a reputation is created, and he must be killed.
 
And let us think about ourselves, of our language: so often we, with our comments, begin such a lynching. And in our Christian institutions, we have seen so many daily lynchings that were born from gossip.

May the Lord help us to be just in our judgments, not to begin or follow this mass condemnation that is provoked by gossip.




Pope Francis        06.09.20  Angelus St Peter's Square      23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A            Matthew 18: 15-20

Pope Francis  Today's passage speaks about fraternal correction  06.09.20 Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 18:15-20) is taken from Jesus' fourth discourse in Matthew's account, known as the discourse on the 'community' or the 'ecclesial' discourse. Today's passage speaks about fraternal correction, and invites us to reflect on the twofold dimension of Christian existence: community, which demands safeguarding communion - that is, the unity of the Church - and personal, which obliges attention and respect for every individual conscience.

To correct a brother who has made a mistake, Jesus suggests a pedagogy of rehabilitation. And Jesus' pedagogy is always a pedagogy of rehabilitation, of salvation. And this pedagogy of rehabilitation is articulated in three passages. In the first place he says: “point out the fault when the two of you are alone” (v. 15), that is, do not air his sin in public. It is about going to your brother with discretion, not to judge him but to help him realize what he has done. How many times have we had this experience: someone comes and tells us: 'But listen, you were mistaken about this. You should change a little in this regard'. Perhaps in the beginning we get angry, but then we say 'thank you', because it is a gesture of brotherhood, of communion, of help, of rehabilitation.

And it is not easy to put this teaching of Jesus into practice, for various reasons. There is the fear that the brother or sister may react badly; at times you may lack sufficient confidence with him or with her. And other reasons. But every time we have done this, we have felt it was precisely the way of the Lord.

However, it may happen that, despite my good intentions, the first intervention may fail. In this case it is good not to give up and say: 'Make do, I wash my hands of it'. No, this is not Christian. Do not give up, but seek the support of some other brother or sister. Jesus says: “if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (v. 16). This is a precept of Mosaic law (cf. Deut 19:15). Although it may seem a disadvantage to the accused, in reality it will serve to protect him against false accusers. But Jesus goes further: the two witnesses are called not to accuse and judge, but to help. 'But let us agree, you and I, let us go talk to this man or woman, who is mistaken, who is making a bad impression. Let us go as brothers and speak to him or her'. This is the attitude of rehabilitation that Jesus wants from us. In fact Jesus explains that even this approach – the second approach, with witnesses - may fail, unlike Mosaic law, for which the testimony of two or three witnesses was enough to convict.

Indeed, even the love of two or more brothers or sisters may be insufficient, because that man or woman is stubborn. In this case – Jesus adds – “tell it to the church” (v. 17), that is, the community. In some situations the entire community becomes involved. There are things that can have an impact on other brothers and sisters: it takes a greater love to rehabilitate the brother. But at times even this may not be enough. And Jesus says: “and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (ibid.). This expression, seemingly so scornful, in reality invites us to put the brother in God's hands: only the Father will be able to show a greater love than that of all brothers and sisters put together.

This teaching of Jesus helps us a great deal, because – let us consider an example – when we see a mistake, a fault, a slip, in that brother or sister, usually the first thing we do is to go and recount it to others, to gossip. And gossip closes the heart to the community, closes off the unity of the Church. The great gossiper is the devil, who always goes about telling bad things about others, because he is the liar who seeks to separate the Church to distance brothers and sisters and not create community. Please, brothers and sisters, let us make an effort not to gossip. Chatter is a plague more awful than Covid! Let us make an effort: no gossip. It is the love of Jesus, who had embraced the tax collectors and Gentiles, scandalizing the conformists of the time. However it is not a sentence without an appeal, but a recognition that at times our human attempts may fail, and that only being before God can bring the brother to face his own conscience and responsibility for his actions. If this matter does not work, then silence and prayer for the brother or sister who has made a mistake, but never gossip.

May the Virgin Mary help us to make fraternal correction a healthy practice, so that in our communities ever new fraternal relationships, founded on mutual forgiveness and above all on the invincible power of God's mercy, may be instilled.