Pope warns parishioners on gossip – If you’re tempted to gossip, ‘bite your tongue’
Pope Francis Sunday traveled to a parish on the outskirts of Rome where he visited a priest suffering from a severe form of ALS and celebrated Mass, warning parishioners, as he often does, of the harm gossiping does to a community.
When we read the Gospels, we see that “we have a lot of sins,” including betrayal and jealousy, “but there is one I don’t find: they weren’t gossipers, they didn’t talk bad about others, they didn’t speak badly about each other. No,” the Pope said Jan. 15.
“In this, they were good. They didn’t pluck at each other,” he said, lamenting how often the sin of gossip, “to remove the skin from one another, to talk behind their backs, to believe yourself better than others while talking badly in secret,” is present in parish communities.
In his homily, Francis turned to the day’s Gospel from John, noting that the Apostles who followed Jesus after John the Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus “is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” were only able to encounter Jesus thanks to John ‘s witness.
“This is how it happens in our lives,” he said, explaining that being a Christian is more than just following the Commandments or obeying all the rules.
Being a Christian “above all means bearing witness to Jesus,” he said, adding that this is what the Apostles did when they went throughout the world, even testifying through their martyrdom.
“Testimony and martyrdom, they are the same. You give witness in the small things, and some of them become big, giving one’s life in martyrdom like the Apostles.”
The Apostles didn’t “take a course” on how to become a witness or study at a university, but they “they felt the Spirit inside and they followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were faithful to this.”
However, even though they were faithful, they were still sinners, he said, adding that this goes for “all of them,” and not just Judas.
Even the Apostles were envious and jealous of each other, he said, pointing to the Gospel scene where they fought about who was first among them, and when James and John had their mother come to Jesus and ask that they sit at his right and at his left.
The Apostles were even “traitors, because when Jesus was taken they all left, they hid, they were afraid,” including Peter, the first Pope, who denied Jesus publicly.
However, despite their sins they were still able to bear witness because what they testified to was “the salvation Jesus brings, and all of them, with this salvation, were converted. They allowed themselves to be saved.”
While the Apostles had many sins, Pope Francis noted that the only one they didn’t have is to gossip and speak badly about each other.
When it comes to parish life, he said that “we are all sinners, but one community,” and where there are gossipers, “a gossiping community is incapable of giving witness.”
“I would say only this: do you want a perfect parish? Then no gossiping, no! If you have something to say to someone say it to their face, or to the pastor, but not among you,” he said, explaining that what destroys a community, “like a worm, is gossip, from behind.”
He then invited parishioners to make a commitment to hold their tongues whenever they feel tempted to gossip, because “a parish where there is no gossip is a perfect parish. It’s parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses, and this is the witness given by the first Christians.”
“Start with this,” he said, and prayed that God would give them the gift and grace “to never speak about each other behind your backs.”