The day of prayer and fasting for peace called for by Pope Francis and prompted by the possibility of US military intervention in Syria united men and women across nationalities and religious divisions in one great cry to God for mercy on our world. I spent those days attempting to fast from the violence in my heart, for the world’s wars spring from the wars waged in the secret of our inner worlds.
The homily of Pope Francis on September 13th caught my attention as a powerful message in this regard. It has definitely not garnered as much attention as the pope’s invitation to a special day set aside for a vigil of prayer. He invited us instead to the day to day conversion of our inner spirit.
The headline: Pope: there is no such thing as innocent gossip.
In his homily he focused on the fact that gossip has a “criminal” side to it, because “every time we speak ill of our brothers, we imitate Cain’s homicidal gesture.”
Pope Francis was commenting on the gospel passage in which Jesus says: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in our own?”
“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings. The Lord does not waste many words on this concept. Further on he says that he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer. In his first letter, John the Apostle also says it clearly: anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness.”
And the Pope added that in this time in history when there is much talk of war and so many pleas for peace, “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary.”
“Gossip – he warned – always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip”. And quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope said the tongue is to be used to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God”, “the image of God in our brother”. Some may say – the Pope commented – that there are persons who deserve being gossiped about. But it is not so:
“Go and pray for him! Go and do penance for her! And then, if it is necessary, speak to that person who may be able to seek remedy for the problem. But don’t tell everyone! Paul had been a sinner, and he says of himself: I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man. But I have been mercifully treated.”
Perhaps none of us are blasphemers – perhaps… But if we ever gossip we are certainly persecutors and violent. We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor.”