On fraternity and fraternal correction

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“IF your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother…” (Mt 18,15)

With these words, Christ is encouraging us to make fraternal corrections. It’s a practice that has to be made more popular and more often, since we cannot deny that we commit mistakes, if not offenses, not only against others but also against God himself. Let’s hope and pray that this practice becomes part of our culture, and should not anymore be considered as some kind of taboo.

We just have to overcome the usual spoilers like fear, shame, laziness and cowardice in carrying out this Christian duty. But more than that, we should deepen and strengthen our spirit of fraternity and charity with one another. Such spirit would definitely make us to feel urged to make these fraternal corrections when they are needed.

To strengthen our spirit of fraternity and charity, we should see to it that we are always friendly to everyone in spite of our unavoidable differences and conflicts. Our friendships should be truly human, complete with generous details of affection and ready understanding and compassion. But it, of course, has to be based on the supernatural love of God that is fueled by his grace which we should always ask for.

If we would have such spirit of fraternity, then we would find it easy to fraternize with everyone, including those who are clearly in error or are great offenders and sinners. That’s what Christ did, even to the extent of ruffling the sentiments of some people who considered themselves to be without sin.

For example, he chose Matthew, a tax-collector, another name for big sinner at that time, as one of the apostles. He dined with Zaccheus, another rich man regarded also as sinner at that time.

Fraternizing with sinners is what we all have to cultivate in ourselves also. We have to replicate Christ’s attitude towards sinners, who actually are all of us—of course, in varying degrees. We have to give special attention to the lost sheep and to the lost coin. We have to open all possible avenues to be in touch with all sinners.

This capacity to fraternize with sinners is first of all a gift from God which we have to take care of and develop. It’s meant to mature us and to involve us in the continuing work of redemption of Christ. It’s not meant, of course, to dilute the teachings of Christ and the very essence of goodness and true holiness.

But our dealings with them should lead to the correction of what is wrong. This obviously will require a certain skill. Definitely, it will require the grace of God, since we have to learn what to say, when to say it, how to say it, such that the correction is truly done in charity and effectively.

We have to take the initiative to love everyone, regardless of whether they ‘deserve’ to be loved or not. In fact, we have to give special attention, like what Christ did, to those who seem far from God—the atheists, agnostics, heretics, etc. These are the ultimate “poor and marginalized” or the real “least of our brethren,” even if they may appear rich, powerful and famous according to human standards.

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