The ancient Essene community, which is a sect of Judaism, had a manual of discipline to govern and safeguard the integrity and holiness of the community. One section of it reads as follows: “They shall rebuke one another in truth, humility, and charity. Let no one address his companion with anger or ill-temper, or with envy prompted by the spirit of wickedness. Let no one accuse his companion before the congregation without having first admonished him in the presence of witnesses”. There is a consensus among the biblical scholars that these earlier sources may have influenced the writings of Matthew, the evangelist.
In the first reading, God tells the Prophet Ezekiel that he is to be a “watchman for the house of Israel.” If Ezekiel refrained from speaking God’s word to convert the wicked, God would hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked. In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing and correcting the sinner. Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness.
Today’s Gospel, according to Mt 18:15-20, reflects the early Church’s concern for the spiritual well-being of each of its members and specified responsibilities for the well-being that is to be shouldered by each member of the community. Jesus teaches that true Christian charity makes a Christian, not only to assist his neighbors in their temporal and spiritual needs with material help and prayer but also to correct those who have damaged the community by public sin. If those making mistakes refuse to the one-on-one correction, then involve more people: first, “one or two others,” and then eventually “the Church community.” Jesus mentions about the importance of community prayer in solving such problems, because Christ is present in the praying community, as He promised to be where two or three are gathered in His name.
…It is not a service and charity, but our Christian duty and responsibility to be keepers of each other…
However, there are some key points one needs to keep in mind in the process of correcting and admonishing others. 1. Self-credibility: Those who engage themself in correcting others must be free of faults. They must be people of honesty, transparency, and credibility. Corrections are not to be made at the whims or fancy of those who are correcting. 2. Pure intention: Corrections are not meant to punish and destroy a person but to educate and bring the person back to the mainstream of the community with necessary restitution. Therefore, the intention has to be pure, purified, and without malice. 3. Acts of mercy and compassion: Corrections are to be blended with mercy and compassion. It is an opportunity to save a soul and gain life to enrich the community. No personal views and prejudices should interfere with the process of correction. 4. Let Jesus be the model: Those engaged in the ministry of correction must take Jesus as the model for their ministry. The woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, but Jesus challenged the accusers for introspection and asked the woman to sin no more. It was done in love and charity. 5. Restoring wholeness and wellness in the community. The result of any correction is not a conviction, division, and disunity; but restoring peace, wholeness, and wellness in the life of the individual and that of the community. When one member of a community is sick, it adversely affects the entire community. Therefore, correction should enable to restore the morale of the community.
Dear brothers and sisters, our call today as Christians is to be watchmen for God’s people. It is not a service and charity, but our Christian duty and responsibility to be keepers of each other. This responsibility is always easier said than done, as we live today in a society where people promote values such as personal freedom, personal space, personal liberty, etc. Prophet Ezekiel was called to be the watchman for Israel, and he was warned of the consequences if he failed in his duty. Our role today is not any different from that of Prophet Ezekiel. We are called to be watchmen for all people, no matter if they belong to us or not. Only in this common brotherhood and fellowship that we become true Christians. You and I are called to be keepers of our brothers and sisters around us. Let us do it out of love for them and the Lord. May God bless us all! Happy Weekend!
May God bless all of us!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS
(Fr. T J. Puliyan, MSFS)