Print Version    Email to Friend
Correct your neighbour only with honourable intentions

Today we are invited to reflect on Jesus’ recommendations on how to find someone who fail or gets lost.  Jesus says, “Your Father in heaven doesn’t want even one of these little ones to perish.” 
It is up to the shepherd, of course, to search for the sheep that is lost, wounded or at risk of falling into a deep and dark ravine.
However, every Christian is a shepherd of his neighbour. No one can say like Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). 
The law of love requires a commitment to guiding people towards the right path; but how to proceed in such a delicate situation? 
There are things that must be avoided: like gossiping and spreading fake news. This is defamation. 
It serves only to marginalise someone who had done wrong, to humiliate them. The truth about others spoken without reason is also gossip.
The truth that does not produce love, but causes anxiety, creates dissension, hatred and resentment is better not spoken. 
Let’s see what Jesus suggests to in telling the truth to someone in danger of being lost. The path to follow is split into three stages. 
First: talk personally to them, face to face. Everything must be resolved in secret, to prevent someone from finding out what happened. 
If this first attempt does not produce the desired result, the second step is to ask for help from one or two sensible and wise members of the community.
Never forget the goal: the recovery of the person. We should never give the impression of cornering them or putting them in front of someone looking for ways to convict. 
They must perceive that they are dealing with friends who want only to do good. 
The last stage is recourse to the community. This can happen only when the sin committed risks threatens everyone, especially those who are weak in the faith. 
Taken literally, this recommendation squeals out of Jesus’ lips, who has just warned the disciples: “See that you do not despise any of these little ones” (v.10). How is it possible that “the friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) pronounces an unjust judgment? 
The responsibility entrusted to the Church is great. She is called to authentically declare what thoughts, feelings and choices are in accordance with the gospel and which one move away from Christ. 
She does not cast out, condemn nor punish anyone, but only help them to become aware of the condition in which everyone stands in taking certain decisions. 
To achieve this, we  should be clear that the measures taken against anyone who strays are dictated only by love, not by the desire to separate them from a community that considers itself perfect.
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications