VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus message emphasized the importance of avoiding all forms of slander in living a Christian life.
“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,” Pope Francis said Feb. 16.
“I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “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!”
The Gospel reading at Sunday’s Mass contained the story of Jesus explaining to the disciples that he had come “not to abolish, but to fulfill, the Law” of the old covenant.
Jesus offers the example of the Fifth Commandmen, “Do not kill,” and goes on to add, “but I say to you: Whoever is angry with his brother will be guilty before the court.”
“With this, Jesus reminds us that even words can kill,” explained the Pope. “When it is said that someone has the ‘tongue of a serpent,’ what does it mean? That his words kill.”
“Therefore, not only must one not make an attempt on the life of others, but one must not even pour on him the poison of anger and hit him with slander, nor speak ill of him. And here we arrive at gossip. Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person,” stressed the Holy Father.
Jesus proposes another way to his followers, “the perfection of love: a love in which the only measure is not to measure, but to go beyond all calculating.”
This Christian path of loving one’s neighbor is “so fundamental that Jesus comes to say that our relationship with God can not be honest if we do not want to make peace with our neighbor.”
“We are called to reconcile with our brothers prior to showing our devotion to the Lord in prayer,” said Pope Francis, noting Jesus’ words to his disciples, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother.”
The Pope then summarized, “From all of this, one understands that Jesus does not give importance simply to disciplinary observance and exterior conduct. He goes to the root of the Law, focusing above all on the intention and then on the human heart, from where our good or bad actions originate.
“Good and honest behavior,” he said, does not come merely from “juridical norms,” but, rather, requires “profound motivation, expressions of a hidden wisdom, the wisdom of God, which can be received by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
It is the Holy Spirit who “renders us capable of living Divine love” and following “the greatest commandment: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Pope Francis then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer and greeted the various pilgrim groups present before wishing everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”