Daily Reflection May 20th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 20th, 2020

MAY 20 Holy Martyr Thalelaeus, at Aegae in Cilicia, and his companions


When a man acquires a Christian conscience, he zealously labors to correct his life and to please God. For him, all else becomes of little importance. We have examples of such men not only among the great ascetics and spiritual fathers but also among powerful rulers. Emperor Theodosius the Great provides us with such an example. For a brief time he fell into heresy but afterward he repented. St. Ambrose, his earlier critic, spoke over his lifeless body: “I loved this man who, divesting himself of all imperial insignias, bewailed his sin openly in church, and, with sighs and tears, begged forgiveness. What ordinary men are ashamed to do, the emperor was not ashamed to do. After his glorious victory over the enemies of the empire, he decided not to approach Holy Communion until the return of his sons, because his enemies had been slain in battle.”(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

He who rejoices in evil shall be condemned, and he who hates talkativeness will sin less. Never repeat a word and you will lose nothing at all; with friend or enemy, do not report it, and unless it is a sin for you, do not reveal it. For someone heard you and watched you, and in time will hate you. Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Take courage, it will not burst you. But a fool will suffer birth-pangs because of such a word, like a woman in labor with a child. Like an arrow stuck in the flesh of a thigh, so is a word inside a fool. Question a friend: perhaps he did not do it, and if he did something, perhaps he will not repeat it. Question a neighbor: perhaps he did not say it, and if he did say it, may he not say it twice. Question a friend, for often it is slander, so do not believe every word. A person slips, but it was not his intention; for who has not sinned with his tongue? Question your neighbor before you threaten him, and give place to the law of the Most High. (Wisdom of Sirach 19:5-17)

In a quote attributed generally to Mark Twain, among others (including Abraham Lincoln), he is to have said, “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Quite pithy and memorable. Also accurate. Today’s quote is about gossip and slander. One can easily argue that a Christian should only open his mouth when necessary if he truly wants to live a Christian life. Jesus said we will answer for every empty word. St. James, in his epistle, says that before any other member of our body, the tongue will send us to hell. This quote from the Wisdom of Sirach gives us some simple rules:

  • Less talk = less sin.
  • Only reveal what you hear if it is your sin to keep it hidden.
  • Don’t think keeping it in will “burst you.” You’re safe.
  • If you hear something that concerns you, speak with the people involved.
  • Do not believe everything (anything?) you hear.
  • Be merciful. Who hasn’t made a slip with the tongue?
  • And one from Fr. John: remember that anyone willing to gossip with you will gossip about you.

St. John Chrysostom spoke eloquently about this:

“Of how many evils are we now full, without being conscious of them? We bite one another, we devour one another, in wronging, accusing, calumniating, being vexed by the credit of our neighbors. (cf. Gal. 5:15) And see the difficulty? When a man wishes to undermine the reputation of a neighbor, he says, `Such an one said this of him; O God, forgive me, do not examine me strictly, I must give account of what I have heard.’ Why then do you speak of it at all, if you do not believe it? Why do you speak of it? Why do you make it credible by much reporting? Why do you pass on the story which is not true? You do not believe it, and you entreat God not to call you to strict account? Do not say it then, but keep silence, and free yourself from all fear.
 But I know not from where this disease has fallen upon men. We have become tattlers, nothing remains in our mind. Hear the exhortation of a wise man who says, “Have you heard a word? Let it die in you, take courage; it will not burst you.” (Sirach 19:10) And again, “A fool hears a word, and will suffer birth-pangs, as a woman in labor of a child.” (Sirach 19:11) We are ready to make accusations, prepared for condemning. Even if no other evil thing had been done by us, this were sufficient to ruin us, and to carry us away to Hell, this involves us in ten thousand evils.” (On Hebrews XXI)

Christ is Risen!