A humble love that gives and accepts corrections

A humble love that gives and accepts corrections

Twenty-Third Sunday of Year A (Matt 18:15-20)
September 10, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

IN his first letter to the faithful of Corinth, St. Paul spells out in some detail the demands of true Christian love. (See 1 Cor 13:4-7.) Without love, even the greatest act of self-sacrifice profits the doer nothing. (See 1 Cor 13:3.)

Paul’s list of concrete signs of love is not exhaustive. Love has millions of faces and shapes. It has millions of manifestations. Sometimes it takes quite “uncoventional” forms, like saying “No!” to wrong requests of the people we hold dear; giving a bitter medicine to the feverish child, or even allowing the amputation of a cancerous limb in the person we love . . . .

The short passages from Ezekiel and Matthew in today’s Liturgy of the Word remind us about yet another very important sign of love: giving fraternal correction. (See Ez 33:7 and Mt 18:15.) The term sounds nice, but its application is always challenging and often hurting because most of us (all perhaps?) do not easily accept to be corrected, to be told that we have done wrong, or that we are wrong. It should not be so, actually, for we are all frail and often do what we shouldn’t, or fail to do what we should have done. We need to be reminded about our duties even though being reminded of these elementary truths hurts our pride . . . .

And God does send us “reminders.” He sends us His messages not only through our conscience, but also through people. These are His messengers, His disturbing “prophets,” the ones who give us the bitter pills, and try to clean and bind our festering sores . . .

Fraternal correction may also be hurting to the very persons who give it, for they may have to face a harsh reaction, and even see a friend turn into an enemy because of a “brotherly correction” they gave . . . . Indeed, it is as difficult to give a brotherly correction with sincere charity, as it is difficult to receive it with grateful humility.

But giving brotherly advice and correction is part of the share we have to pay to bring about our own salvation as well as that of our neighbor. It is part of our “carrying one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), no matter how uncomfortable the fulfillment of our prophetic task may sometimes be. We are our brothers’ keepers, for we are all members of the same family. And we cooperate with God in bringing about our salvation also by helping Him to save others . . . .