We have made it to the part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus begins to comment on the commandments. Today we hear his take on the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
While the vast majority of us will never have to confess that we have taken another’s life, we dare not ignore this commandment. Murder or homicide is not the only way to kill. There are ways to “kill” without ever pulling a trigger or stabbing with a knife.
We have all heard of people committing suicide, especially teenagers, because they have been bullied, because they have been rejected, because they cannot see beyond the misery of the present moment that has been caused by others. Jesus is clear. We are not allowed to humiliate, shame insult, or dehumanize others. We are not allowed to call people names. We are not allowed to gossip about others even if the subject of our gossip is verifiable. Followers of Jesus who profess to be “Pro-Life” may not engage in any activity that belittles or denigrates another person. Such words or actions are just as potent as a loaded pistol.
Gossiping about others might actually be considered two sins. Not only are we guilty of destroying another person’s character, but we drag someone else down with us when we gossip.
It is important for us to put a stop to such behavior. When others begin bad-mouthing someone, we are required to step forward and bring the conversation to an end. Not to do so, even if we do not engage in the conversation, would be a sin of omission.
Sin destroys relationships. This is never clearer than in the kind of sin which humiliates or shames another. Being in right relationship with God and with our neighbors is the very definition of righteousness.
Jesus makes being in right relationship a condition for participation in worship. If we are not righteous in this sense, we are told to forget about worship until we have healed the breach. You might remember that St. Paul writes about this in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27) St. Paul is speaking of the fact that certain people in the community were participating in the Eucharist but excluding the poorer members of the community. Such behavior violates the bond that exists between believers. Our failure to live in charity with one another excludes us from the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator