Sunday, September 7, 2008



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. Sometimes it takes quite “unconventional” forms, like firmly saying “No!” to wrong requests of the people we hold dear; giving 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 the Liturgy 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 being corrected, being 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 omit what we should have done. We need to be reminded about our duties though it hurts our pride to be reminded of these elementary truths.

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! 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.

( A Prayer Of Forgiveness )

Lord Jesus, how difficult for me
to treat with forgiving love
those who have offended me!
Vengefulness rages in my heart,
and in my thirst for getting even,
I dare call "justice"
what is only bitter revenge.

But you tell me:
“Relent! Forgive!
Correct your erring brother or sister
with patient love.
Remember the times when you hurt other people,
and your deep yearning to be forgiven.
Remember my command that you treat others
the way you would like to be treated.”

Lord, I know you are right.
But you know how hard it is for me
to do as you say.
Help me do just that.
Help me consider not the hurts I suffered,
but the hurt they will suffer in the prison of hell
if they do not stop hurting their neighbor.
Help me be not an instrument of your punishment,
but a channel of your mercy,
a prophet who leads offenders to conversion.

Let my forgiveness of my offenders
be sincere and clad with gentleness –
so sincere that I may wish
and work for their repentance,
so that they and I may be together in heaven
like the best of friends.