Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 6, 2020 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s readings speak about fraternal correction. Admonishing the sinner is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy. We have a responsibility for the eternal salvation of our neighbor and cannot save ourselves unless we try to save others.
God himself asks us to admonish our brothers and sisters when they sin. Today’s first reading says: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me” (Ez 33:7). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault” (Mt 18:15).
God’s judgment is right—not ours. Today’s Entrance Antiphon says: “You are just, O Lord, and your judgment is right; treat your servant in accord with your merciful love” (Ps 119:137,124). Faith in Christ gives us the freedom to admonish our neighbor selflessly, without fearing the eventual consequences.
Fraternal correction is a prayerful act. Thus, we cannot admonish a brother or sister without praying for them. Admonishment must be a prayer. As today’s psalm says, “Let us kneel before the LORD who made us” (Ps 95:6). To correct someone means to help them return to the presence of God.
After explaining how we should practice fraternal correction, Jesus says that he is among us whenever we gather together in prayer: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Sometimes it is not possible to admonish others because we lack the courage, do not know how or are certain that our correction will be rejected. However, we can always pray for the eternal salvation of a person. Prayer for the conversion of sinners is very important. The three little shepherd children of Fatima, who were always praying and offering sacrifices for the repentance of sinners, brought us the Fatima Prayer, which we recite after each decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy.”
“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another” (Rm 13:8). Fraternal correction must be an act of love. As Saint Paul says, truth and love go together (cf. Ef 4:15). When we correct someone, we must not be arrogant. We admonish not because we are better than others but because we are asked to do so by God.
We can only correct others when we are willing to accept admonishment from God and from our brothers and sisters. We all need to be corrected. Having people who correct us is a great gift. They are our true friends.
We cannot invite someone to conversion unless we are in the process of conversion ourselves: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts’” (Ps 95:78). The same Jesus who tells us to admonish the sinner also says: “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye” (Mt 7:5).
To correct and be corrected is not pleasant but it is fruitful: “If your brother listens to you, you have won him over” (Mt 18:15). What joy fills our hearts when we help someone passing from darkness to the light!
May the Lord help us practice the spiritual work of mercy of admonishing the sinner. Through the intercession of Our Lady, may our compassion for sinners and repentance for our own sins increase. Amen.