The Seeds Of Gossip
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
My dear encountered couples:
“While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds through his wheat.” This story that Jesus told was not as far-fetched as we might think. There were people in those days who actually did such things. When they wanted to get even with somebody, hurt somebody financially, or even play a sick joke, they would plant what is called tares in a person’s wheat field.
A tare is any of several weedy plants that can be found growing in grain fields. In its early stages it looks so much like wheat that it is next to impossible, even for an expert farmer, to tell the wheat from the tares. It has to be left to grow for a while before anyone can tell the difference. But by that time it is too late. The wheat and weed roots have become so intertwined with one another that any attempt to pull out the weeds would bring the wheat up with them. And so, the tare weeds are left to grow until harvest time when they are then separated.
Jesus took an experience the people were familiar with and used it to teach a lesson: “The reign of God may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds through his wheat, and then made off. When the crop began to mature and yield grain, the weeds made their appearance as well. The owner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where are the weeds coming from?’ He answered, ‘I see an enemy’s hand in this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go out and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘pull up the weeds and you might take the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will order the harvesters, First collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Jesus used this parable to point out that God allows evil people to exist among the good until the end of time, when he will send his angels to separate them, one from another. “The angels will hurl the evildoers into the fiery furnace,” he said, “where they will wail and grind their teeth. Then the saints will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.”
This parable was also a good answer for those who were wondering why Jesus allowed bad people to flock around him as well as the good. Why he allowed people who were branded by Jewish society as sinners to be anywhere near him.
He wanted them to know they couldn’t always tell the good from the bad, the saints from the sinners. Everybody has a bit of each, and he gives all of us every opportunity we need to prove ourselves. Not until we die will our genuine quality be fully revealed. Jesus made saints out of many who had already been counted out as sinners. Maybe we shouldn’t be in such a rush to judge people and give them up as lost.
I would like to use this parable as an example for something else. Something I’m afraid we are all guilty of on occasions. Some of us might even make a lifestyle out of it. GOSSIP! We all know what gossip is, don’t we? It is that which, when we do it, we muddy someone’s reputation. Like the enemy that sows weeds among the wheat while the farmer sleeps, we sow secrets and rumors about people behind their backs.
We sow private information and misinformation; we tell truths that we have no business to tell, we tell half -truths, we might even pass along what we know are outright lies. We say things about others that we certainly would not want them to hear us saying, and which we would not want said about us.
When three gossipers are in a group you can be sure no one of the three wants to be the first to leave. Gossip is not only wrong; it can be sinful, quite possibly seriously sinful. And those of us with a conscience soon become aware of the wrong we have done.
Then why do we gossip? Well, probably most of the time we do it without thinking. We get into the habit of talking about others and become addicted to it. What else are we going to talk about, we wonder? Someone once said that conversation between Adam and Eve must have really been difficult at times. They didn’t have anybody to talk about.
Sometimes we might talk about the faults of people because we think that tearing them down lifts us up in the eyes of those we are talking to. Maybe we are the judgmental type, everybody’s imperfections are obvious to us, and we don’t want anybody to miss seeing what we see. We might be jealous, angry, even filled with hate. It is usually at those times that we don’t care whether what we say is true or false. Gossip can be terrible - both spreading it and listening to it. But my having said this, and all of us agreeing to it, isn’t going to stop us completely from engaging in gossip, is it?
Seeds of gossip are going to be planted by how many of us not too long after we leave this church? And those seeds will germinate, they will grow, they will alter someone’s opinion of someone else. For as long as they live some people will believe falsehoods about certain people which they heard in gossip. Only in eternity, when everything is disclosed will we finally come to know the truth about one another. Falsehoods will be weeded out from the truth and shown for what they are. Reputations sullied by gossip will be cleansed by God and his angels.
To become aware of the evil effects of gossip, try this sometime: Think of someone you have a very low opinion about but whom you have never met. Then ask yourself, “Why do I have that low opinion? Is it because I heard unfavorable things said about that person? Have I read unfavorable things about that person?”
We can be quick to form opinions about movie stars and other celebrities just from what we see and hear on TV and read on the covers of supermarket tabloids. We can easily find ourselves disliking people we have never met just because of some form of gossip that has come to us about them.
“While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds through his wheat.” A similar thing can happen when two or more of us are gathered together. We sow gossip! May God, and all those we have said unkind things about, please forgive us!