From Our Pastoral Associate
We live in a world where it is very easy to make rash judgments, and we often make them. Many times, we judge by appearances without knowing a person very well. When people make mistakes, we immediately categorize and judge the person before finding out exactly what happened. If a person falls, we do not help them or give them the opportunity to make amends for their fault or error.
In this Gospel for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus invites us to not judge, much less condemn a person who has made a mistake. Rather, He invites us to make a fraternal correction; and this fraternal correction has to be made with charity, compassion, and benevolence. Fraternal corrections have to be done exclusively in private with the person who made the mistake. It is strictly prohibited to make fraternal corrections publicly, much less expose the person for their error. Otherwise, we would be lacking in charity, and ruin the image and reputation of the person who has made the mistake.
Our Lord Jesus Christ reproves and condemns this kind of correction. Let’s remember that we all make mistakes and no one, absolutely no one can say, “I would never do that!” Never say never. There’s a saying in Spanish, “A liar falls sooner than a lame man.” If we read the Gospels carefully, Jesus did not come to judge, much less to condemn people. “God does not want the death of a sinner, but that they may repent and live.” He came to save all his sons and daughters. We clearly see in the Gospels how he went to meet the ones who had made mistakes, he looked at them with great compassion, lifted them up, gave them the opportunity to make up for their mistakes, and reintegrated them into the community. Do we do the same for people who have fallen and made mistakes? If we have not, it would be very good and right to evaluate our lives and see if we are doing the right thing; that is to say, when correcting a person, we are doing it fraternally and in private.
If each one of us did what Jesus proposes to us in this Sunday’s Gospel, surely the people who one day left our community or the Catholic Church would not have done so. Many times, we become judges and executioners of our brothers and sisters. Where is the mercy, compassion, benevolence, and charity that we are supposed to practice every day? Doesn’t Jesus tell us in the Gospel of Saint Luke, “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured to you… stop judging and you will not be judged”? Our Catholicism, our piety, our spirituality, and our religiosity must be lived through deeds and actions.
Jesus asks that what we read in his Word, receive in the Holy Eucharist, and meditate in our personal prayer life, we put into practice every day. Otherwise, we will become hypocritical Pharisees. It is very comforting and constructive when a person draws our faults to our attention in private and gives us a fraternal correction. We know why they do it in private; because they love us. And because they love us, they want the best for us.
Love is not only shown through emotions, in making someone feel pretty, and in using many words. Love is shown in making fraternal corrections, in private, without damaging, destroying, and ending the life and the image of our brother and sister. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the grace to practice every day what our Lord Jesus Christ proposes to us in this Gospel of Saint Matthew 18, 15-20.
With affection, respect, and fraternity, Fr. Alberto Villafan, OFM
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