September 6th, 2020: Homily – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I read this very interesting story from the book Calling on the Crossroad, a collection of homilies of Fr. Simplicio Apalisok; that inSolomon Islandsin the south pacific region, some village people practice a unique way of logging, a primitive one. If a tree is too big and requires so much effort to knockit down with an ax, the natives take it down by shouting at it. Tribesmen climbed on the tree andscreamed like mad at the top of their voices. This goes on for thirty days. The tree dies and falls down. The belief is that yelling kills the spirit of the tree. According to them, it always works.

Is it true? It’s weird. These people were primitive intheir way of doing logging. They don’t have the access of modern technology. In our generation, we can cut a large tree in five minutes, there is no need for screaming or yelling at trees like those tribesmen but behind all this we are worse , because we yell at people.

We witnessed people yellon their husband, shout on their wives, on their children and even curse on others. These are getting to be a normal habit for many. No choice of words or places. We do it at home, office, streets and over the phone. These are all effects of our anger out of wrong doing of others.

Jesus in today’s gospel talks about fraternal correction and how we correct others. Correcting is different from condemning. It is done in view of the good of the other. It is not a destructive criticism but a constructive one.

The truth is none of us wants to hurt anybody. That is why we are hesitant to correct another person. But there are times when we see someone we love getting into wrong and forming bad habits and we want to guide them back to the right track. Yes we know it hurts but it does good to the person. Besides it is our duty and responsibility too, I should say, if we follow the words of God in the first reading from the Book of Ezequiel: “…If I say to the wicked, ‘O wickedones, you shall surely die, ‘ and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their inequity but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their inequity but you will have saved your life, ” (33:7-9).

We are our brothers’ keepers because God appoints us to be watchmen for one another. A brother or a sister who sin has a right to our guidance; we owe it to them. If we can help others by pointing out their error and fail to do it, then we will be held responsible before God. It is his or her responsibility before God if he or she ignores our warning. We are not expected to force anyone to be good; goodness mustbe freely chosen.

But how do we go about correcting a person? The best answer comes from Jesus in today’s gospel.

First, if we feel that someone has wronged us, we should go to him personally and speak to him in private. This is actually the hardest stepand therefore the most often neglected but it is a genuine act of love. If we cannot approach someone for his bad attitude, we should not bring the case to social media and announce their fault publicly on air. Or go to our neighbor and tell them of his fault. If we have a difference with someone, there is only one way to settle it and that is, confront him face to face. It’s good if we do it in a prayerful atmosphere.

Second, if a private and personal meeting fails, we should take some persons as witnesses, like the family or respected persons and others. Having witnesses is not meant to be a way of proving to a man that he has committed an offense. It is meant to help the process of reconciliation. To talk matters over with some respected people, thiscan create a new atmosphere in which there is at least a chance that we should see ourselves “as others see us. ” Also, this should be done in a private atmosphere.

Third, if that still fails, we must take our personal troubles to the Church. Why? It is because troubles are never settled by going to law or court or by any argument or settlement. It is in an atmosphere of prayer, love and fellowship that personal relationships may be corrected.

Fraternal correction and dialogue are really necessary in our Christian lives because of our weak human nature. Let us take time to care for others if we love them. It is because the main goal of fraternal correction is to “win our brother over. ” It is not meant to prove to him how wrong he is or to prove that we are right. It is not to humiliate the one who has gone wrong but to help him.

Yes, I have said that fraternal correction should be done in a prayerful atmosphere. That, if somebody had hurt us, talk to God first about that person. If somebody needs correction, talk to God first. If somebody needs to be criticized, consult first God about the criticism you want to say.

The most effective way of correcting other people is by prayer. We must realize that it is not our good words that change the hearts of others. It is not our beautiful words that make people change their ways. It is only by the grace of God. Only God can change people, not us. It is only God who can correct hearts, not us.

In the gospel of St. Luke (15:10) says that if we practice love and our brother listens and repents, we share in the joy of heaven, where the angels rejoice over each repentant sinner.

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