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The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods” – and the scripture cannot be annulled – can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.
… everything that John said about this man was true.
One of the most destructive things in our lives is ‘gossip’. Whether we wrap it up and give it a fancy title, such as ‘fake news’, or whether we call it what it is, the sharing of malicious talk about other people, gossip is destructive. But … the lure of sharing, and thereby spreading gossip is irresistible to many. In recent times, indulging in gossip has been given a credibility and dignity it does not deserve by social media, the press and political leaders. This may seem a harsh over-statement, but consider this … at the height of the winter spike in coronavirus a journalist was asked, on national radio, where his information was coming from. That journalist’s response was: ‘I get as many facts as I can from politicians and scientists; the rest is a matter of my making a ‘best guess’.’ Surely this is nothing less than an admission of guilt when it comes to spreading gossip.
For many, the exchange of tittle-tattle over the proverbial garden fence is a harmless way of passing the time. But, what about the damage that is done through the passing on of gossip? Supposedly harmless half-truths (or complete falsehoods) can easily give rise to unfairly damaged, or even destroyed reputations. The passing on of misheard or misunderstood conversations can quickly become the stuff of nightmares for those about whom the gossip is being spread.
In today’s reading we see the negative effect of passing on half-truths and misunderstood words: The Jews took up some stones again to stone him. Before his public ministry began, Jesus’ status and importance was proclaimed by John the Baptist. This was affirmed by God himself at Jesus’ baptism by John in the River Jordan. Jesus then began to preach and teach a new way of living in close relationship with God, and he began to heal the sick, cast out demons and perform other signs of divine power. Rumour of Jesus’ words and actions spread quickly … the gossip began.
Those whose authority and power was threatened by Jesus were frightened. Those religious leaders used words to try and trap him, to prove him false and an enemy of God. But … everything that John said about this man was true.
Next time we are tempted to gossip, let us hold on to those words. If we cannot say something kind, generous and loving about our neighbours, let us say nothing about them. Let us, instead, join John in telling the truth about Jesus Christ.