Persons are always a mystery to each other. You could be lifelong friends with someone, and never exhaust their mystery. Husbands and wives can be married for fifty or sixty and still surprise each other. Persons are always remain a mystery because our thoughts and minds, our motives and hearts, are hidden from each other. Realizing this, we should be very careful about the conclusions we arrive at about others.
For example, in the first reading, Hannah comes to the temple with a great longing in her heart. She wants a child and she asks for this from God at length, from her heart, with tears.
Eli [the priest,] thinking her drunk, said to her, “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine!”
She is pouring out her heart as a saint before him, but Eli thinks she is a drunk. (This is not one of the greatest moments in history for priestly pastoral ministry.) It’s wrong to get drunk, and it would be o.k. for Eli to tell her so if she were, but she’s not. Eli doesn’t understand her. He doesn’t even understand what’s happening right in front of him. Oftentimes, we’re just like Him. Another example of arriving at false conclusions in seen in the Gospel:
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?
The demon doesn’t understand Jesus’ motives. The demon looks at things in terms of power, control, and domination, not love. The demon thinks that no one can be better than himself. Thus, Jesus is a threat that must be knocked down.
It’s not our style to accuse and criticize people so directly. We’re too timid for that. When someone commits a fault or offense, how likely are we to go to them face to face about it? How much more likely are we to complain to someone else about it out of their presence?
What’s wrong with speaking negatively about others? For starters, what we think we know is often false, like we saw with Eli. And even if the report is true we judge uncharitably, like the demon. Speaking negatively about others is also unhelpful. Jesus says in the Gospel. “If your brother sins against you, go to him in private.” This can clear up many misunderstandings and result in a solution. Instead, we may talk to everyone in the world about our burden besides the one person we actually need to. Finally, speaking negatively about others, even in private, wounds unity. Even if your criticisms never find their way back to the person which they are about, harm is still done. The person you are speaking with will wonder to themselves, “Does this person talk about me behind my back to others? How small of a fault on my part would that take?”
At times you will be misunderstood and people will speak ill of you, especially if you are faithful in following Jesus Christ. But as for your part, never speak a bad word about anyone, unless it is really necessary. Live in this way and people will respect & love you for it. People will notice, as they did with Jesus, and say, “This person does not speak like the others. They speak like Jesus Christ.”