23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

OPTION 2: I read this very interesting story from the homily book of Fr. Simplicio Apalisok, Calling on the Crossroads Year A, that in Solomon Islands in the South Pacific region, some village people practice a unique way of logging, a primitive one. If a tree is too huge and unyielding to be brought down with an ax, the natives knock it over by shouting at it. Tribesmen climbed on the tree and scream 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.

Fr. Apalisok commented that these people were primitive in their way of conducting a logging. They don’t have the edge of modern technology. We can cut a large tree in five minutes. Talking about efficiency of destruction of our forests, our generation does not anymore employ the yelling of trees like those tribesmen. We are better, don’t you think? Wait! We don’t scream at trees but we yell at people. We are worst.

Fr. Apalisok continued that you yell on your husband. Shout on your wives. Holler on your children. Curse on others. Bark like dogs. It is getting to be a normal habit for many. No choice of words or places. You do it at home, office, streets and over the phone. You can act like lighted dynamite waiting to explode in a fit of anger and madness.

Jesus in today’s gospel teaches us about fraternal correction and how we correct others. Why we should correct our brothers or sisters? We correct them not because they are bad and we are good. But because we are going to bring them back into our fold, save them and let them be united with us and not to bring them far away. That is why fraternal correction must be dictated by love.

Jesus gives us a pattern to be followed by us. This is begins by coming to the offender personally and have an immediate dialogue with him/her. Man-to-man approach, that is, only between the two of you. Talk to him personally about his wrongdoings and faults. This is done in private in order to avoid embarrassment. We should not bring the case to Radio Bombo and announce the fault of the person and Radio Bombo airs it. Or go to our neighbor and tell them of the other’s fault. It’s good if we do it in a prayerful atmosphere.

This is followed by having recourse to two or three ‘witnesses’ like the family, respected persons and others, with us to help in the process of reconciliation. And finally, we must take our personal troubles to the Church. It is because we need an atmosphere of prayer, love and fellowship that personal relationships maybe righted. If he is still not amenable, then, that’s the time that we isolate the person.

But sad to say, we follow different pattern, which is opposite to the way of Jesus. What happened? We immediately isolate the offender, deadma to the max. The next step that we do is we broadcast it to the community, to our friends and other people in the community. Only at the end when we don’t know what to do anymore and this is now the time that we approach and talk to the offender.

Fraternal correction is something that is not easy to do because there are some people who do not have the courage to talk in a man-to-man approach. Although fraternal correction is difficult to do but it is a Christian way when we do it. It is better to risk talking to the offender in order to solve the problem rather than allow it to fester until it explodes. Correcting others too is difficult to do because, in correcting them, we have to be ready to be corrected in return in the sense that none of us is perfect.

When we try to correct the faults of others, the following fable of Aesop can help us in doing it. Once upon a time, the sun and wind made a bet as to who was the mightier as to compel a guy wearing a jacket to remove it. “That’s easy,” the wind bragged as it blew hard and violent. But the more he did, the more the man wrapped his arms around his jacket. After several more attempts, the wind gave up.

It was the turn of the sun now. Using no force or violence, he simply kept raising the temperature. In no time, the man started to perspire. Unable to bear the heat, he quickly removed his jacket! What is the moral of the story? A persevering, gentle approach is more effective than harsh, negative one.

We should correct each other’s fault in order that forgiveness may happen too. Forgiveness is very much a part of fraternal correction. Why we should forgive? To forgive is very difficult to do but if we refuse to forgive, the first victim of unforgiveness is not the one seeking forgiveness, but we who deny forgiveness.

We should forgive in the sense that forgiveness is beautiful. Ugly people become beautiful. Beautiful people are becoming more beautiful. But it does not mean that if we forgive our acne and pimples will be wiped out, but in the eyes of God we become beautiful and handsome because we forgive. We should forgive because the unforgiving heart is poisoned. The person who continues blaming or holding resentment against someone feels guilty, insecure, vindictive, unhappy, bitter, hateful, jealous and angry. These feelings literally poison the person if he or she does not resolve them. Another one is unforgiving heart result into high blood pressure, development of ulcer and ill health. Who would like to have ulcers or strokes or suffer from high blood pressure? Nobody, but nobody is also ready to forgive. When we refuse to forgive, we punish ourselves.

I have said that fraternal correction should be done in a prayerful atmosphere. If we see something wrong in person, the first thing that we do is to get angry with him or her and if not, to tell another person about our angry. It is wrong. The first person that we should inform first is not the person who committed the mistakes, but it is God in prayer. It is seldom we do this.

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 seems that this is our belief. It is only God who can correct hearts, not us.

So we will pray during this Mass for those people we want to correct and we want to criticize. Let us also pray that our minds and hearts be one in forgiveness.

See Today’s Readings: Cycle A

Back to: Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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