TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. Green
Ez 33: 7-9/ Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9/ Rom 13:8-10/ Mt 18:15-20
Save the Sinner and Yourself by Private Correction
RUDOLF STEVEN N. SEÑO, O.P.
During one of the Quodlibetales (an academic exercise wherein anyone can publicly ask a master any questions) Thomas Aquinas received two questions (Quodlibet 1, q 8, aa 1-2): 1) whether a religious is bound to obey his superior so as to reveal to him a secret which was committed to his trust?; and 2) whether a religious is bound to obey his superior so as to reveal a fault of a brother which he knows? The dilemma here is that on the one hand, he seems bound to obey his superior because he made a vow (a religious assurance or profession and not merely a promise) to be obedient to him. On the other hand, doing this goes against the spirit of charity for he would reveal a secret entrusted to his care. Because of this predicament, many of us Filipinos pretend that we have not seen anything and simply be silent about it; thereby, avoiding tension. Aquinas starts by quoting St. Bernard who says that what was instituted for the sake of charity does not work against charity. After all, Paul tells us in today’s 2nd reading that charity is guiding principle in all our actions for it is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:8-10). So, the vow to obey his superior does not give the religious the license to obey superior’s commands that go against charity. He would sin if he breaks the trust committed to him.
The same is also true with revealing the fault of a brother. Personal and brotherly correction should precede the reporting of his fault to the superior. We learn this from our Lord Himself in today’s gospel. The first step of dealing with faults should always be the confrontation between you and the erring person alone. If he does not listen then take one or two others to further convince him of his fault. And finally, it may be related to the Church. Why so many steps? Aquinas explains: “For it pertains to charity that someone spare a brother as much as he can. Hence, he ought first to strive to correct the brother’s conscience, preserving his reputation by admonishing him in solitary fashion and afterwards in the presence of two or three.
Finally, public repute must be disregarded in order that conscience be corrected and the affair must be related to the Church, in which process consideration is taken for conscience. For a sinner, if from the beginning he saw his sin made public, would lose shame and be made to sin more obstinately.” An exception would be a danger that requires immediate action as in the case of a bomb that is about to explode. This
moment should be guided by the words of Isidore, “In cases of bad promises, break the faith.” But generally, by personally confronting an erring brother, we not only save him, but also ourselves as what the Lord tells us in the 1st reading (Ez 33:7-9). So, whenever we see a fault committed, let us not harden our hearts (today’s responsorial psalm) in being blind to it or in immediately reporting it. Let us love him by correcting him privately.
Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Friars, Sinner, Correction, Charity