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National Presbyters newsletter
With Great Lent beginning on March 18th, I thought it might be important for us to focus on the deadly weapon of gossip. All of us have, at one time or another, become the victims of gossip. Undoubtedly many of us are also guilty of spreading gossip as well. As I was sitting down to write this month’s message, I was blessed to come across a wonderful Lenten reflection written some years ago by Metropolitan Methodios, which I wish to share with you this month.
St. Ephraim is one of the most well know and respected saints of our Church. Most of us know him because of a prayer he wrote, O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give me rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother or sister, for You are blessed from ages to ages. Amen.
It is significant that St. Ephraim includes idle talk among the four evils in the spiritual life. Indeed, gossip is a sin. Those who engage in idle talk are by nature lazy and jealous, slothful and faint hearted. They have no integrity. Gossips are, in fact, cowards who lust for power and influence. By passing on “news,” they show off how “important” they are, how they know everything. Unquestionably, vain talk (gossip) is a deadly weapon. It destroys reputations and careers. It plants suspicion and doubt. It destroys communities. It ruins marriages and lifelong friendships. It affects innocent relatives and associates. Unfortunately, gossip has become very fashionable. It is the subject of newspaper columns and television shows. Even so, no one likes to be identified as a “gossip.” Some of us go so far as to differentiate gossip (which we claim to abhor) from simply “passing on what we heard.” Nonetheless, gossip is the terrorist never brought to justice because he/she is nameless and faceless.
A story is told about a woman, who once went to confession and was proud to inform her priest that she was a good person; she was a loving mother; she never cheated on her husband or her taxes; she attended church regularly, etc. The only thing was she engaged in “innocent” gossip. Nothing serious, mind you. She wasn’t its source; she merely passed it on. Anyway, since she considered that it wasn’t very important, she asked to be forgiven by her priest and go her way.
The confessor told her she needed to do three things. The first was to go to the marketplace, purchase 10 pigeons, place them in a cage and return to the church. Bewildered, she nevertheless did what she was told. Upon returning, the priest told her to open the cage and allow the pigeons to fly off. And so, the woman abided by the second requirement. “What is the third thing I have to do to be forgiven?’ was the question she posed to her priest. “Ah,” said the godly man. “If you want to be forgiven, you must find the ten pigeons that flew from the cage and bring them back to me.” The woman protested that this was an impossible task, seeing that the pigeons flew off in different directions. How could she possibly bring them back to the priest?
The priest proceeded to tell her that gossip is evil, because once it leaves one’s mouth; it can never be taken back. It is passed on to others who put their own spin on things and, in turn, pass it on to others. Gossip can never be taken back.
My dear brothers and sisters, idle talk is a serious sin, a deadly weapon that can only be disarmed by fervent prayer. It is prayer that unites us with God and becomes the channel through which love for God and our neighbors fills our hearts. It is this love that enables us to stop criticizing and finding fault with others, but to look deeply into our hearts and discover our own sins and shortcomings. May God bless us with a wonderful Lenten journey!
+ Fr. Chris