Jesus Christ’s first disciples were “sinners,” like all of us, but they had a great strong point: they never spoke badly of one another and in this they gave a great example, succeeding in spreading the Gospel throughout the world. In his first post-Jubilee parish visit to Setteville of Guidonia in Rome, Pope Francis prayed for a special grace for the community: to never “gossip,” to never talk about one another.
The Holy Father took his cue from today’s Gospel (John 1:29-34), to reflect on the concept of “testimony”: many of John the Baptist’s disciples listened to the prophet’s testimony, chose to follow Jesus and “remained happy,” saying: “We have found the Messiah!” Those first disciples of the Nazarene “felt Jesus’ presence thanks to a man, John, who gave witness of Christ.
Casting a look on today’s reality, the Pontiff noted: “So many Christians confess that Jesus is God,” and among these there are “priests” and “bishops.” A question arises, however: “Do they all give witness of Jesus?”
To be Christians, continued the Pope, is something very different from being “fans of a team” or adhering to a “philosophy. It also goes beyond simple respect for the “Commandments,” of a “I must do this …”
Those first disciples, the Apostles, did not follow a course,” nor did they “go to university” to give witness of Jesus Christ. Moreover, they were all “sinners,” not “only Judas” of whom, after all, we do not know what happened after his death,” in as much as, perhaps, God’s mercy could have saved him.
The Twelve Apostles, added Francis, were full of defects, they were “envious,” experienced “jealousy between them,” argued about who should “occupy the first place.” They were even “traitors” and it is demonstrated by the fact that “when Jesus was seized, they all fled …. They were afraid, they hid.” Peter himself, “who was the head,” tried to follow the Master up closer in his final trial but “when a servant recognized him, he denied Jesus.” Thus, St. Peter’s Successor stressed: “The first Pope betrayed Jesus.”
However, all those first disciples “let themselves be saved” and became “witnesses of salvation,” granted to them by Jesus. They committed “so many sins,” including the Lord’s betrayal, but they were great in one aspect: “They weren’t gossipers, they did not talk badly of one another,” as opposed to so many of today’s communities, where they end by “skinning one another.”
Hence, the Pope re-launched a strong point of his preaching: “A community where there are gossipers doesn’t give witness. If you have something to say, say it to the face or, at most, “say it to the parish priest.” From whence the Bishop of Rome drew his recommendation to Saint Mary’s parish: “I would like this community to make the resolution not to gossip.” In face of such a temptation, “bite your tongue!”, he added.
Given that “the Apostles never gossiped about one another, “a parish without gossip is a perfect parish,” made up “of witnesses,” of which one can say credibly “How they love one another!”, said Francis, praying finally to the Lord for the parishioners of Setteville of Guidonia, to be given the grace “never to talk about one another.”