Ez 33:7-9; Rom 13:8-10; Matt 18:15-20
Sometimes in the past, during election period, two best friends ran for mayor in a certain town. They were the best of friends, but during the campaign period they were attacking with each personally. Instead of talking about their platform of government, they talked to the people their personal lives, then. So after the election, the best friends became mortal enemies. Both of their families were worried and tried the two reconcile with each but to no avail. So, both families went to the parish priest and asked him to help them. The parish called the two to discuss the problem and in no time the matter was settled. And now they are again the best of friends all the more.
Our gospel today can be divided into three parts.
The first part is about fraternal correction. 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.
There are three steps in fraternal correction according to Fr. Wilfredo Paguio.
The first step is man-to-man approach – only between the two of you. Talk to him personally about his wrongdoings and faults. This is a private affair, in order to avoid embarrassment. This is very easy to say but very difficult to do because there are some people who do not have the courage to talk in man to man.
The second step is to take one or two witnesses along. This step should be done in a prayerful manner. Never prompted by hate and not by revenge because our purpose is to bring him or her back.
The third one is, the case should be referred to the Church. But we should not forget that our main purpose is to save them, to help them grow, to make them bear as much fruits of goodness as possible and never to oppose, never to suppress, never to harass and never to kill them. And remember, love should be the basis of our fraternal correction and not anger.
The second part is about forgiveness. Forgiveness is very much a part of fraternal correction. It is possible to forget and forgive? Why should we forgive? Why can’t we forgive?
Mr. Webster defined forgiveness as the act or willingness to stop blaming or holding resentment against someone or something.
Forgiveness is a decision and not a feeling. It is an act of the will. It is a decision made and based by our intellect and not by our heart. It is because our minds are very smart and bright but our hearts are very slow and bobo (dull). Our minds could not catch your intention immediately. You have to explain it thoroughly.
Why we should forgive? To forgive is very difficult because there is a disagreement between our minds and our hearts. Our mind says: “I have forgiven,” but our hearts say: “No, not yet. I have not yet forgiven.” But let us remember that 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.
The third part is about prayer. 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