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
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