In the Old Testament, specifically in Genesis, when Cain is asked by the Lord about the whereabouts of his brother Abel, the first man guilty of homicide disparagingly replied in words now known to us all: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen.4:9). This question finds its answer in the consideration that the Lord wants us to make today in the readings of the Sunday liturgy, the twenty-third in ordinary time. One realization that we have to make is that we do not and cannot live by ourselves and for ourselves alone; we touch each other’s lives and are touched in return. We may be ultimately responsible and accountable for everything that we willfully and consciously do, and yet these things that we do in a way affect the lives of those whom we meet and whose lives we touch everyday, an we are affected by that which takes place in their lives. This fact of solidarity with each other opens our eyes to the fact that we have to help each other rise, because we could be the cause of our neighbor’s downfall as well.
The lesson to which the readings would like us to turn our attention to this Sunday is about one important thing that should be present in the life of the Christian community. There was a time when any Catholic could enumerate with aplomb the seven spiritual works of mercy. Among these are to instruct the ignorant and to admonish sinners. Another name for these would be what we may call fraternal correction, and this is at the core of the message that we have listened to in the Liturgy of the Word.
The First Reading taken from the book of the prophet Ezequiel we are made to discern that we have the responsibility to bring an erring brother or sister from their ways and bring them back to the Lord. Though they are responsible for their ways, nevertheless the Spirit of God also discloses to us through the prophet that we too have a responsibility before God on their behalf.
Certainly to practice fraternal correction in no way shows that we are far better than the others; nor does it mean that we need to be superior to them in any way. Fraternal correction is done best in humility, which allows us to acknowledge the fact that all of us without exception are capable of going astray from the path that leads us to Christ, and thus are needful of the help of our brothers and sisters in the faith. Fraternal correction must be done humbly because it is first and foremost an exercise of Christian charity, as the Apostle Paul would point out in his letter to the Church in Rome, when he mentions that we ought to owe nothing but love to our brethren. We have to take care and examine ourselves whenever the opportunity to correct others presents itself to us, whether we correct out of love or just in order to nurse our wounded egos, most especially if our brother has sinned against us. Taking our lead from the admonition of the Savior, let us remember that we correct not in order to destroy or to punish, but we do so in order to build and to save, and we struggle in order to be impartial, firm, just and most of all, loving in our fraternal correction. And when in turn we are to stand corrected, let us remind ourselves, enlightened with the supernatural vision that comes as a grace from Christ, that if we are corrected, it is for our own good.
To exercise this correction is not only for superiors and administrators or pastors of souls; it is asked for of every Christian if he or she is to love as Christ loves. Let us ask therefore for this love which should inform our relations with other people, a love that does not allow others to be lost or be kept far from the love of our Lord, knowing that we are responsible for each other because the Lord loves each of us individually as His own.
|I am my brother's keeper...|