Fr. Manuel M. Flores, SJ
4th Sunday of Lent
March 26, 2017
When I was growing up in Mandaluyong our rich neighbor’s house got robbed. To kill our neighbor’s noisy guard dog, the night robbers threw inside the fence some bread soaked in a lot of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Some of us find MSG very savory but it can actually be efficiently deadly.
Today there is an even more destructive kind of MSG that kills insidiously: Misinformation, Slander and Gossip. This kind of MSG has easily killed far more people that the 6,000 alleged victims of EJK.
Jesus himself was killed by slander. In our gospel today after the healing of the man born blind the enemies of Jesus said of him: “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” In the gospel from Luke last Thursday, Jesus’ enemies were even more blunt: “He casts out demons by the help of Beelzebul, who is the prince of demons.” Then as now we first demonize a person to justify killing him later.
Pope Francis notes that many decent people are unknowingly prone to the sins of the tongue. This Lent let us go into a humble examination on how many we may have killed though MSG.
Pope Francis has twice complained of media reporting on the Vatican marriage summit held in October 2016. The Pope said that much of the unrest generated by the synod came from people getting their information from “some news in a newspaper, or an article,” rather than reading what the synod actually said. Francis also said that people’s fears and confusion during the synod were more the result of faulty information than of the meeting itself.
Pope Pope Francis has lambasted media organizations that focus on scandals and smears and promote fake news as a means of discrediting people in public life. Spreading disinformation was “probably the greatest damage that the media can do”, the pontiff said in an interview with the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio. It is a sin to defame people, he declared.
The pope excused himself for using terminology that some might find repellent. Francis said journalists and the media must avoid falling into “coprophilia” – an abnormal interest in excrement. Those reading or watching such stories risked behaving like coprophagics, people who eat faeces, he added.
You and I are decent people. Yet we must ask how have we contributed to propagating misinformation, including half truths? How have we been “coprophiliacs and coprophagics?”
Slander is the act of making a false statements damaging to a person’s reputation. We understand Pope Francis’ great concern about this sin. About 50 years ago in Argentina He himself was a victim of slander. In 2013, the first year alone when he became pope, Pope Francis has given at least 3 homilies on slander. For Pope Francis slander kills, slander is murder. As Pope Francis had experienced, slander may be committed by lay, religious, or even priests!
One of the biggest problems about slander is that the lie we spread may persist for a very long time. The hole remains long after we have pulled out the nail. For example, the slander against Pope Francis 50 years ago is so pernicious that it continues to this day.
Who are the people we have slandered?
Who are the people whose reputations we may have destroyed?
In a homily (April 9, 2013) Pope Francis notes “The temptation to gossip about others and batter them with words is always just round the corner. These are daily temptations which confront us all and me too.” Gossip is particularly attractive and deceptive because there is an illusion of closeness and intimate bonding as we collaborate in butchering the reputation of another. We can even feel quite good about ourselves that we are so much better than the victim of our gossip. Gossip can happen in offices or factories, schools or neighborhoods, in parishes or convents. Gossip can happen while playing mahjong or while drinking beer with buddies. It can happen before adoration, during a parish meeting, or after Holy Mass.
Who are the people you last gossiped with?
Who are the people you last gossiped about?
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you did it unto me.”
2000 years ago they killed Jesus with MSG.
Are you still killing Him today?