One of the most common things one hears in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sin of gossip. It has been said that the act of gossip is like buying a chicken in the marketplace, feathers and all, and then walking through town, plucking the feathers one by one. As a priest, how do I direct a person to undo all the damage caused by gossip. It is akin to asking the person to return and pick up all the feathers. Such is the nature of gossip and its redress.
Gossip is one of many sins that people seem to be caught in a cycle: sin, confess, sin, confess and on it goes. Occasionally I will ask people what they tried to make different from the last time they confessed gossip. The silence is often deafening. Sometimes there is: “Well Father, you have to understand…” That is just a wordier and lengthier version of the silent reply.
What’s the old adage? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a form of insanity.
In today’s first reading, we hear: “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” (Isa 1:17)
Cease doing evil and learn to do good. In the case of gossip that might mean to not participate, to walk away, to admonish the group, or to defend the person.
Make justice your aim. Remind yourself and others that the things we say need to be necessary, true and helpful.
Redress the wronged. You can’t pick up all the feathers, but you can pick up some.
There we are: a few simple changes to avoid the insanity of repeated sin. You might not always be successful, but in the trying you can be faithful.