St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

To do the right thing, but out of love

To do the right thing, but out of love.                              –Homily June 26, 2016

 

 

In his first coming, Jesus came to save, not to condemn (cf. John 12:47). He came to offer salvation through repentance to those who were sinners. He came to teach us the way to salvation, out of love. And he called all of us to do the same, and for the same reason. He called us to teach others the way to salvation, and to teach it out of love.

 

1. There are two ways in which we can teach others the way to salvation: by preaching the truth, or by correcting fraternally those who are wrong. We can do that out of love, and so we are followers of Jesus. But we can also correct our brothers and sisters for other reasons. We can rebuke them out of anger or impatience. We can rebuke them as a hidden way of affirming ourselves: “Stop doing that, you sinner!” which may sound a little bit like that Pharisee who said: “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11).

 

In this case, people say the truth or rebuke those who are wrong because they want to show that they are good or that they know the truth. They want to rejoice in themselves, and in other people knowing that they are “the righteous,” “the chosen,” the special people. They don’t preach the truth in order to see other people happy, in order to share with them the gift they have received from God. They preach the truth in order to enjoy themselves, and to show others, not how great God is, but how great they are.

 

Mind you, even in this case, the bad person who teaches the truth is to be listened to, though not imitated, as Jesus said: “practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).

 

2. Some other times we may rebuke people out of impatience. Therefore, not because we want them to be good, but because we want them not to disturb our peace. Correction out of impatience is not in order to give something good to our neighbour, but to get rid of the evil that comes from him. This is not out of love, but out of selfishness. The focus is on ourselves, on our comfort, not on our neighbour. That is not the way to correct.

 

Two things about this. Sometimes, it is impossible not to feel anger when someone does something wrong. But remember, if you love that person, and you know that you will not be able to control yourself, try to wait for a better moment. If you correct in excessive anger, that person will think that you are acting out of impatience and selfishness, not out of love. He or she will feel hurt, not loved. And you will not get what you want, that is, his correction, his good. Still, a moderate anger is sometimes a sign of love. The other person can see that we are angry because we love them. But if you are in doubt (if your anger is good or not), and you don’t need to do it now, count three thousand and come back tomorrow…

 

The second thing: even if our superiors (father, mother, priest, boss) correct us in a wrong way about something true, take advantage of the correction. A good advice should be taken even from the devil. It doesn’t matter who says it or how it is said: if it is true, correct yourself. You will be judged well, for your repentance and correction; the other person will be judged for his or her own sins. The fact that a correction is made in a wrong way does not excuse us from correcting ourselves.

 

So let us love one another. The way to love one another is not to ignore the sins of my brother, it is not to ignore the need they have of salvation, truth and the love of God. We have to share with them the message we have received; we have to help them to correct their weaknesses. But we have to do it out of love, we have to do it for the same reason Jesus did. Jesus did not preach the truth just to look smarter or righteous before people. He was considered a friend of sinners by the Pharisees, and was so merciful that sinners were not scared to approach him. Jesus did not rebuke people out of impatience, but because he wanted them not to be condemned, he wanted them to be happy, and he knew that there is no happiness with sin.

 

Let us do what Jesus did: let us preach, let us rebuke if needed be. But let us do it for the same reason: out of love, with mercy, even with the sacrifice of ourselves. May the Lord grant us a merciful heart, so that we may do the right thing in the right way, which is the way of mercy.  –Fr. Andrew