Fraternal correction is a private admonition, given to another out of charity, in an endeavor to withdraw him from sin or from danger of sin. Let’s look at when we can and should make fraternal correction, and then we will look at some times when we should not.
Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– by protecting evil-doers.
Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.”
All sin, even the inclination to sin. It is the flesh against the spirit, the children of the flesh against the children of the spirit. Sometimes we lose site of that, and we think in terms of mortal sin only, not realizing how important it is to break also the hold that venial sins can have upon us.
In the Catetchism of the Catholic Church, it states, “Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. ‘Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.’ [St. Augustine states] “While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope?” [§1863]
St. Paul is warning us today (Eph 5:1-9) about sins of the flesh in thought, in word and in deed. He’s warning us not to make anything else our god but God alone. He explains, and he threatens, and in the end he encourages us to give thanks. Isn’t that interesting? Why give thanks? Because gratitude requires humility, and humility opens us up to the love of God.
Centuries before little Therese of Lisieux would teach us about spritual childhood, the statue that would become known as the Infant of Prague silently showed us that childlike littleness, innocence and confidence, and that these are the keys to heavenly dignity for which we are destined. Many look at the statue and wonder, why is He dressed like that? The purpose of this attire is to make us aware of His holiness and our reward for imitating that holiness. The vestments are priestly and they symbolize a heavenly dignity. He says, “Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” So here we see both represented … a little child clothed in royal, heavenly garb.
Septuagesima is a time for us to gradually work our way into Lent so that we can be prepared and make the most of that holy season. And at times, Lent can be really grueling – we’re hungry, we’re tired, we spend a lot of time thinking about our sins and what we deserve for our sins. But let us keep our eye on the goal – what is encouraging? What makes all this worth it?
It’s the whole reason why Christ became Man and suffered and died for us. For all eternity, He has had one goal in mind – to unite Himself to you forever. It’s been an eternity, and yet finally, here you are. Our Lord’s heart yearns to be united to ours, He burns with the desire of being loved by us. When our Lord says that “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you”, St. Lawrence Justinian interprets this to mean our Lord’s desire to unite Himself to us in Holy Communion. Our Lord will not be denied. He will go to great lengths to be with us. He will find a way to come to those who love Him.
Occasions of sin are not temptations. An occasion of sin is a noun – that is, a person place or thing, or idea – in which or by which we might be led to sin, when we might be tempted. Good things are attractive, therefore good things will be more likely to present us with temptation and are more dangerous to us in terms of temptation, not always in themselves but potentially. For example, a person is much more likely to overeat on cheeseburgers than on kale. So good things, certainly more than bad, can be occasions of sin for us. But that does not thereby make the good thing bad.
In a past sermon on Fraternal Correction – how to correct a brother who is in error or even in sin – we learned that ideally we would address an issue with the person himself unless something makes that impossible. In some cases it may be necessary to go to the proper authorities. But something that was explicit in the fraternal correction sermon was that you may not go public with the damning information unless there was immediate, certain and grave harm that would be avoided by doing so and in no other way. Nor may we share information with anyone who does not have a right to know.
This sermon picks up on some of those principles and see how they apply to the sin of gossip, a fairly common sin and to a large degree misunderstood.
Sermon referenced: (2014 – 06 – 29) Fraternal Correction Requires Charity
In Hebrew tradition, a name signifies the very essence of a thing. It’s a statement about not just who someone is, but about what they are. And what does the name Jesus signify? It means literally, “Yahweh is Savior”. It doesn’t mean that everyone in the bible with the name Yeshua is supposed to be some sort of savior. But it is certainly right that someone who is the savior would have this name.
“The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. … For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6)
The Lord God, He is creator and ruler of all things. The government is upon His shoulder, the burden of command is His. We must trust Him. He cannot be wrong, he cannot make a mistake, he cannot fail. He will rule by peace and love and mercy if we will have him, or by might and justice and judgement over our eternal souls if we will not.