Humility, understanding, and compassion

09-06-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

Nostalgia exists for everyone shortly after we start to create and reflect upon our memories. We all remember “the good old days” when we were young(er) and things were different. We remember them as better or as worse than they were. Memory is an emotional intellectual activity when we think about our past. Memorizing the time's table or historical information or data” is different. All generations and cohorts of ages of people think about their past with the same sense of subjective nostalgia. This nostalgic memory influences how and what we think in the presence of ourselves and what we think of others.

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and the Gospel writer Matthew tell us that we are obligated to speak up when we see something or someone doing or going wrong. Ezekiel is quite bold and tells that if we fail to correct the person, that person’s fate is considerably our fault. I would say that is a rather great responsibility for most of us. I suspect this is an exaggeration because we cannot control someone else’s free will decision. As we know, many people will never listen and to try to speak to them does far more harm than good. Matthew says the same thing. We are to go directly to the person if something is not right. And he says if that does not work, there is still more to be done according to Matthew’s passage.

However, most importantly he says we are bound by love. This means that those who are unhappy in their own life and blame others, those who always find fault with others or those who are gossipers (and there are many) should not be the ones who offer correction, direction, or advice. They cannot act in love because they do not appear to love themselves properly. Our world and our lives have many morally self-righteous and artificially “pious” people. Some are church-goers, many have no religious sense, and some come from the ideological extreme right or extreme left viewpoints. Simply said: all these folks are destructive and to be avoided. In his passage today Saint Paul also says to do things with love and at the same time be mindful of our behavior.

Our Church teaches that we are committed to one another and that we are responsible for the good of all people. Each of us is responsible for the other’s salvation and well-being. We sometimes forget all this.

How we do all this requires humility, understanding, and compassion, not using nostalgic memory to distort our thinking. To correct others requires that we first correct ourselves and our lives. Before we act, we must fully possess these three virtues: humility, understanding, and compassion. “Lord, help my unbelief before I try to help others!”