Correction in a Loving Way

09-10-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

Growing up in Roslindale quite a while ago, our section was a rather tight neighborhood. Behind all of our homes was a large set of woods, at least large for a city, where the kids all played. We were actually well supervised because each mother at home kept an ear open and an eye on us so that we did not get into trouble. Every adult who spoke to us was equal to one of our own parents speaking to us. The times have changed, some for the better and some not so. Sadly, oftentimes when an adult should speak up, they do not because our culture has changed so much. Thus it must be a bit disconcerting to hear in the readings this weekend that we all have an obligation to speak up, from neighborhood children to the larger world and its issues and problems. Of course this does not mean just yelling out "our opinions that we have a right to." It is much more substantial. We are called to speak in a caring and constructive way about the wrongs and offenses that we see.

Ezekiel and Matthew make it absolutely clear that we are obliged to speak up when we see something or someone going wrong. Dramatically to make his point, Ezekiel writes we are not only told to correct the wrongdoer, but if we don't and the person dies a sinner, his or her blood will be on our hands. Certainly that is an overwhelming responsibility for anyone who doesn't want to get involved! Notice how Matthew's Gospel says the same thing. If something isn't going right, we are told to go directly to the person. Matthew also writes some more and tell us what to do if our first plan does not work out. He writes "Take one or two others along with you." However, we must always bear in mind that in all things, we are bound by love and this love is to influence what we say and how we say it. Paul, in his letter to the Romans reminds all Christians of the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. So while we may need to correct our neighbor, we must always to do it in a loving way, or not at all. Paul is also very, very clear about this: while we notice the sins of our neighbor, we are reminded by Paul to be mindful of our own behavior.

A document that we always have operating in the background of our faith to help us to know and understand is The Catechism of the Catholic Church. This book teaches us clearly as Church truth that we are committed to one another and that we are responsible for the good of all people. This means that each of us is responsible for the other's salvation. Because of how life is lived, we sometimes forget these things. It is true that our lives are full, but the scriptural message is clear: Love your neighbor as yourself; and speak up against sin in a loving and helpful way.

It is hard to do these two things at the same time. Usually we are unknowingly arrogant when we are the ones who are right and want to correct someone who is wrong. It all requires that we first examine ourselves and our hearts for our faults and then ask if we are possibly wrong because of our own bias or full understanding. If we are certain that the other person is doing something wrong, then if we are in a position to talk with the person, then we need to do so in a most loving, kind and respectful manner. Certainly not easily done by someone, nor easily heard by someone.