Do You Hate Your Neighbour?

The liturgy for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time emphasises the value of correction in human life, as an effective means of leading souls along the path of virtue.

Newsroom (09/20/2023 09:00, Gaudium Press ) In the permissive times in which we live, we often think – albeit subconsciously – that correction is bad and should therefore be avoided so as not to cause embarrassment. However, anyone who thinks like this is mistaken and, therefore, “loving” their neighbour, is actually hating them.

Correction, on the other hand, when done at the right time and out of love for God, can be beneficial to the person being corrected, as long as they accept it with sincere humility. However, whose role is it to correct – only the authorities? Primarily, yes, but not exclusively.

In the first reading, taken from Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Lord addresses the shepherds thus:

“If I tell the wicked that he is going to die, and you do not speak to him, warning him about his own behaviour, the wicked will die of his own fault, but I will hold you accountable for his death” (Ez 33:8).

This passage could well be applied to all those who exercise authority: clerics, superiors of a group of souls, parents, or any other superior. By neglecting their duty as shepherds and sparing their sheep the rod, under the pretext of not hurting them before doing them good, they lead them into valleys and abysses.

Let them remember that when they stand before God on the day of their death, they will have to give an account for each of those entrusted to them as subordinates.

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As already mentioned, correction should not only be applied by the authorities, but by everyone. In the Gospel, we see how Our Lord clearly attests to this:

If your brother sins against you, go and correct him, alone with you! If he listens to you, you have won your brother. If he doesn’t listen to you, take one or two other people with you, so that the whole matter can be decided on the word of two or three witnesses” (Mt 18:15-16).

You can see how Our Lord encourages the role of individual correction and then, if necessary, correction in front of other witnesses. Why? If, at first, the person being corrected does not recognise their fault, they will have another opportunity through other people who insist on the same idea, and they may come to recognise it.

Furthermore, if public humiliation is well received by the accused, even if it causes him pain at first; it will be beneficial in increasing his humility and will fill his soul with peace.

This is what the Epistle to the Hebrews says:

“Indeed, at the time it is given, no correction seems to rejoice, but causes pain. Afterwards, however, it produces a fruit of peace and righteousness for those who have been exercised in it” (Heb 12:11).

It is not only necessary for the person being corrected to accept correction well, but also for the corrector to act at the right time, without a temper, and moved by the virtue of charity. Sometimes, waiting for the right moment takes days, months or even years.

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How often do we condescend to the faults of our neighbours? How many other times is it hard for us to say a word of rebuke to them, for fear of losing their friendship? Our Lord is inviting us, once again, to make His divine criteria our own, listening to His voice:

“Do not close your heart, listen today to the voice of God” (Cf. Ps 94:7-8).

In fact, as this Sunday’s liturgy points out, someone who leads us back to the right path by correcting us may well represent the voice of God for us, making our hearts attentive to God’s words.

So let us remember that:

“The commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’ and any other commandment are summed up in this one: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbour” (Rom 13:9-10).

So let us ask, through Our Lady, for the grace never to miss an opportunity to warn our brothers and sisters, and not to do it out of self-love, but out of love for God. In this way, we will be sincerely loving our neighbour; otherwise, we will be hating him…

By Guilherme Maia

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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