Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fraternal Correction


I attend a Lectio Divina group each Tuesday morning at 11am at the Dominican Church in Drogheda. This Lectio group began last Lent, so we have now passed the one year mark. We read, reflect and pray using the Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday Mass. I really love this hour each Tuesday morning. It is great to experience the power of the Word of God working in a group. This morning we happened upon the tricky issue of fraternal correction, arising from a line in Leviticus.

"You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself."  (Lev 19:17)
I came home an googled and here is the most accessible article I found. It is from an anonymous blog called Catholic Wisdom.

Fraternal Correction
One of the hardest things to practise is fraternal correction. Today, few people are well-disposed to receiving correction from their brothers in Christ. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that we are to correct one another, so as to lead our brother who has strayed back to the Truth.

Fraternal correction is a mystery of Charity. The only legitimate reason for correcting our brother who has gone astray (be it in sin or in heresy) is that we want to see him obtain salvation. Charity seeks the good of the other, and the ultimate good of each one of us is the Eternal Vision of God in the world to come.

But fraternal correction is also linked to Truth, not just to Charity. As our Holy Father says, we are to practise Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate). The two are intrinsically linked. This is because the God who said, “I am the Truth” (Jn 14:6) is the same God of whom it is written, “God is Charity” (Deus Caritas Est) (I Jn 4:8). Truth helps me to see objectively that what my brother is doing is wrong, contrary to the Law of God. And Charity helps me to correct him so as to bring him back to the path that is pleasing to Our Lord, and hence to Salvation.

But the way in which I correct my brother is very important. Fraternal correction should always be done with gentleness, with humility. The man who puffs himself up with pride when he corrects his brother is on the path to perdition, for pride is the greatest of all sins. I should be correcting my brother because I love him and want him to convert and return to God; not because I love to see the speck in his eye while failing to see the beam that is in my own.

It is good to pray before correcting one’s brethren. We must always ask God to enlighten us, and to let us know whether fraternal correction in a particular case is the best way to go. It is, ultimately, the Holy Spirit who corrects through us, and so the decision of whether or not to correct my brother should also come from him.

One of the great saints used to weep whenever he corrected one of his brothers. He knew that he had to let his brother know the truth about how destructive his behaviour was. But it was still hard to do the correction, because he could see the hurt it caused his brother. And so he wept. He did the right thing, but the right thing is not always easy to do. Nonetheless, he did it, out of love.

We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we should not be afraid to receive fraternal correction from our brethren. If they do it with humility, it is because they love us and want us to obtain the gift of Salvation in the end. Like a mother who gently corrects her son who is going astray, so too we must gently correct one another and bring them back to the Truth of God.

Holy Mother Church too corrects her children, not because she wants to see them condemned; on the contrary, it is because she loves them, and wants to lead them into God more fully. Lies and God cannot co-exist, just like hatred and God cannot go together. And so, the Church gently corrects those who are in error, so as to dispose them to receive God more fully.

During this Sacred Season of Lent, therefore, let us learn how to correct one another gently and humbly, and let us never turn away from our brethren who correct us. Truth and Charity must always be present in such fraternal correction in order for it to be authentically Christian. Truth without Charity is not Christian; but neither is a false Charity without Truth. God is Truth, and God is Charity. For us to be fully alive in God, therefore, both must exist within our soul.

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