Christ is in our midst! These are words the clergy speak to one another as an affirmation of the Lord’s very presence in the Divine Liturgy. It is wise for us to consider these words often as we are numbered among the flock of our Lord, knowing that He is always with us. We are always in our Lord’s presence, in Church, our home, or any other place. As such, we must ask ourselves, is there anything our Lord does not see? Is there anything our Lord does not hear? When we mutter harsh words against our neighbor, against our family, or even against a clergyman, we should remember that we do this to our Christ – remember these words of our Saviour:
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. Matthew 25:40
When we speak harsh words to our brother or sister, we speak them to our Lord. When we hurt them with our scathing rebuke, we hurt our Lord. There is a difference between words of anger and words of value. We are all subject to criticism. If we offer it in a kind manner, or receive it honestly, there is opportunity for growth. When the spirit behind these words is malevolent, both souls suffer. When the spirit behind these words is loving and generous, the words bring profit.
He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked [man getteth] himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give [instruction] to a wise [man,] and he will be yet wiser: teach a just [man,] and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding.
Is gossip something new, do Christians really gossip about one another? Surely this sort of thing does not happen in our Churches! Behold the words of our father among the Saints, Philaret the New Confessor:
Quite often we hear in the church yard gossiping, evil talking and judging of people. It happened also at that time. The enemies of Christ hissed in their fury when they saw Him entering Zacchaeus1s house. Everybody heard them- The Lord Himself and Zacchaeus too. But Zacchaeus reacts in a very unusual way. He steps forward and solemnly declares: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold “.
St. John Chrysostom in his interpretation of this Gospel says that Zacchaeus had not heard the Gospel’s teaching as yet, but already he acts as a disciple of the Gospel. All those who judged him, certainly, as it is said, bit their tongues. All became quiet, and in this silence Zacchaeus’s act received its appraisal in the merciful words of The Saviour: “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham”
With this story the Church offers us a wonderful example of living and acting repentance at the beginning of these preparatory weeks before lent. But one must remember that if we seek salvation, we also have to behave like Zacchaeus, who did not reason, did not put off, did not think long, but immediately repented and corrected his life. Homily on the Sunday of Zacchaeus by St. Philaret of New York
Even the leaders of the Jewish people, even those who knew the law were guilty of idle gossip, which leads to judgement. So much beloved must we be on guard, setting a watch before our lips lest we speak words of guile!
Gossip is a sin and like other sins can easily become habitual if we do not seek to remove the tares before they take root and spread. Sin is like a weeds that grows amongst the lovely flowers, eventually choking the flowers (our good deeds) and spoiling the garden of our soul.
It is more difficult to struggle with sin when, through frequent repetition, it becomes a habit in one. After acquiring any kind of habit, the habitual actions are performed by the person very easily, almost unnoticed to himself, spontaneously. Thus, the struggle with sin which has become a habit for a person is very difficult since it is not only difficult to overcome, but is even difficult to detect in its approach and process.
An even more dangerous stage of sin is vice. In this condition, sin so rules a person that it forges his will in chains. Here, one is almost powerless to struggle against it. He is a slave to sin even though he may acknowledge its danger and, in lucid intervals, perhaps even hates it with all his soul (such for example is the vice of alcoholism, narcotic addiction, etc.). In this condition, one cannot deal with oneself without special mercy and help from God and one is in need of prayer and the spiritual support of others. One must bear in mind that even a seemingly minor sin such as gossiping, love of attire, empty diversions, etc. can become a vice in man if it possesses him entirely and fills his soul. On the Law of God, by St. Philaret
None of us are immune to this sickness, especially the clergy! The power of gossip is strong, casting down the soul to the abyss, but a good word does wonders!
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad. Proverbs 12:25