(Vatican Radio) Jesus prays for the unity of Christians, but within the Church there are those who sow weeds (It: zizzanieri), those who divide and destroy the community with their tongues. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
The difficulty of unity
Jesus, before the Passion, prays for “the unity of believers, of the Christian community,” so that they might be one—as He and the Father are one—that the world might believe. Pope Francis took this passage as the starting point for his homily:
“The unity of the Christian community, of the Christian family, is a witness: a witness to the fact that the Father has sent the Son. And, perhaps, arriving at unity—in a Christian community, in a parish, in the Bishop’s residence, in a Christian institution, in a Christian family—is one of the most difficult things. Our history, the history of the Church, makes us ashamed so often: but we have waged war against our Christian brothers! To mention just one, we think of the Thirty Years’ War.
Asking forgiveness for divisions
Where “Christians make war among themselves,” Pope Francis said, “there is no witness”:
We have to ask, very often, for forgiveness from the Lord for this history! A history so many times of division—but not just in the past… Also today! Also today! And the world sees that we are divided and says: “But let them come to an agreement among themselves, then we’ll see… How, if Jesus is Risen and alive, are these, His disciples, not in accord with one another?” Once, a Catholic Christian said to another Christian, from the East—also a Catholic—“My Christ rises the day after tomorrow. When does yours rise?” We are not even united in Easter! And this in the whole world. And the world does not believe.
Those who sow weeds divide and destroy
It was “by the envy of the devil,” the Pope explained, “that death entered the world.” So also, in the Christian community, selfishness, jealousy, envy, divisions are “almost habitual”; and this leads to people speaking about one another behind their backs. In Argentina, he noted, “these people are called ‘weed-sowers’ (It: “zizzaniere”): they sow weeds, they divide. And here divisions begin with the tongue. Through envy, jealousy, and also being closed! ‘No! The doctrine is this!’” The tongue, Pope Francis said, “is capable of destroying a family, a community, a society; of sowing hatred and war.” Instead of seeking clarification, “it is easier to talk behind people’s backs” and to destroy “the reputation of the other.” The Pope cites the well-known anecdote of Saint Philip Neri: to a woman had confessed gossiping about others, the saint gave the penance of plucking a chicken and spreading the feathers around the neighbourhood—and then trying to gather them all up. “But that’s impossible!” the woman explained. Saint Philip responded, “It’s the same with gossip…”
Speaking about others behind their back is like this: it dirties the other. The one who does so makes things dirty! He destroys! He destroys the reputation, he destroys the life, and so many times—so many times!—without reason, contrary to the truth. Jesus has prayed for us, for all of us, that we might remain here, and for our communities, for our parishes, for our dioceses: “That they might be one.” Let us pray to the Lord that He might give us the grace, because the strength of the devil, of sin, that pushes us to disunity is so great, so great. Always! That He might give us the grace, that He might give us the gift. And what is the gift that creates unity? The Holy Spirit! That He might give us this gift that produces harmony, because He is harmony, the glory in our communities. And that He might give us peace, but with unity. Let us ask for the grace of unity for all Christians, the great grace, and the little grace of every day for our communities, our families; and the grace to bite our tongues!