10 November 2006

Blessed are they who gossip...

Pope Saint Leo the Great: Sirach 39.6-11 and Matthew 16.13-19
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory and Church of the Incarnation

Jesus is a gossip. Notice how the gospel begins: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He wants to know what people are saying about him! You might say, “Well, he’s setting the disciples up to teach them about who he is.” No doubt. But he’s doing so by asking his students what others think of him, what others are saying about him. As a teacher I can tell you: we want to know what our students think of us! It’s important to us b/c we teach in order to pass on a certain wisdom, a manner of framing the world and moving around in it. We want to shout at our students sometimes, cajole and prod them, swift kick them or lift them up, but we always want to know how well we are teaching, how well are we handing on to them what wisdom we have.

OK, it might be a little much to call Jesus a gossip! If he is a gossip, he is a Holy Gossip and he is testing his disciples to see if they have been listening to how well his Word has been passed on to the people, how well his Word has diffused out and settled into the hearts and minds of those gathered to hear and see. The disciples tell him what they have been hearing. Some have said that you are John the Baptist. Some have said Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. You can almost see Jesus smirking or maybe rolling his eyes just a little! Well, not everyone is paying close attention apparently! But at least they hear that his is prophetic, at least they “get” that he is not a magician or a snake oil salesman. They know that he speaks with authority and wisdom.

Now, the real test: do the disciples know this? Have his students been paying attention? What has he taught them? Turning to the class, Jesus asks, “John the Baptist and Jeremiah, uh? Well, OK. Who do you say that I am?” Always the favorite, Peter’s hand goes up first: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Precisely right! Gold star for Simon Peter! And he and his faith are rewarded with the keys to the Kingdom. He is made steward of Christ’s realm and Head Gossip of the Church. It is now his job to make sure that all the rumors, all the whispering and innuendo, all the chitchat and yammering about who Jesus is comes out right. It is his job to make sure that what gets whispered is more than rumor and story. He is charged, with the other disciples and eventually the whole Church, charged with setting loose in the world the juiciest bit of chisme creation has ever heard: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God! And he is here to do the work of our salvation.

Blessed are you who whisper this truth. Blessed are you who gossip about this gift of the spirit. Blessed are you who hear and see, listen and witness. Blessed are you who question and learn, who ask and receive. Blessed are you who speak wisdom and sing God’s praises. Blessed are you who pour out glory and a spirit of understanding. Blessed are you who raise your hands, open your mouth, and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. And, finally, blessed are you who admit your ignorance and submit yourself as a graced natural resource to the stewardship of Peter. It is upon that rock, Peter, that Christ’s Church is built, where His Church stands, and where His Church prevails.

If your tongue must be loose, let it be bound with the gossip of the gospel. Whisper to one another and anyone who will hear: Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God!


  1. fr. philip,

    thank you for your blogspot. i am taking the liberty of linking it to my own, which i have just begun. I invite you to visit: www.thegoodnewsofchrist.blogspot.com.

    i'm convinced that we catholics have to use the internet more to reach interested and uninterested catholics.

    blessings on you and your work.

    fr. ben hawley, sj

  2. I have always been struck by the fact Jesus did not ask: "So, am I the Messiah or what?"

    He asks a question upon the answer to which the world hinges. If we proclaim Him our Savior, Redeemer, etc. then we are inexorably bound to His commandments and instructions. If we do not, then we're still bound to say who we believe He is...and then see if those assumptions hold water.

    Once we do proclaim Him, once we say "Thou art the Christ!" the toothpaste is out of the tube. We have to take our cross and follow Him.



  3. Anonymous10:55 PM

    Forget the fact that a Dominican priest has a blog. I am stunned that one has a podcast!

  4. JOe,

    Great insight! I hadn't thought of that before. Mind if I borrow...?


    In most of the recent General Chapters of the Order the friars have called us all to use the internet where possible to preach. We are dedicated to using the other arts as well...I'm working on the poetry front!

    Fr. Philip, OP