Fraternal Correction: The greatest work of Charity

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

September 10, 2023


To correct our brothers and sisters who are not living according to the Laws of God is an act of mercy and love. In Catholic tradition, fraternal correction is essential to the seven-spiritual works of mercy. Why correcting others is considered to be an act of mercy and love? Why is it difficult to do? Here, I share my reflection on why a fraternal correction is necessary, but at the same time most challenging, as well as some tips to do this act of charity.

To correct our brothers and sisters is a work of mercy and love because we want their souls to be saved from the fire of hell and to enjoy eternal life with God. Thus, together with evangelization, which is to bring people to know and come closer to Christ, fraternal correction is considered the most excellent work of charity. Because we love them, we grieve when our brothers and sisters go astray from the Lord’s way. Thus, we show our love and remind them to return to the Lord. 

However, though correcting our brothers and sisters is noble and merciful, it is one of the most challenging things to perform. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, ignorance. We are simply ignorant of Christian basic morality. Since we do not know, we can correct others. This is a big problem because many of us do not have the full knowledge yet about the Laws of God. Yet, it is also the easiest to solve because proper instructions and catechesis will significantly help us.

 Secondly, fear. Our love is not strong enough, and fear possesses us. We are afraid to confront our brothers because we hate hurting their ‘feelings.’ Sometimes, we are afraid that we might break our amicable relationship. We do not like to have ‘enemies.’ Thus, we condone their wrongdoings by keeping quiet. Now, this is dangerous because not only will our brothers lose their souls,  but we are also losing our souls because now we become the accomplices. We commit the sin by omission.

Thirdly, relativism. The virus of relativism is a subtle yet very dangerous plague to Christianity. Christians believe in one God and one moral Law coming from Him, but relativism says the opposite: there is neither absolute truth nor universal moral standard. A relativist person will say, ‘That act may be wrong according to my standard, but it may be true according to his.’ Thus, we refuse to correct others’ sinful behaviors because we ‘respect’ their perspective. This is even more dangerous because it destroys our proper understanding of Christianity and confuses many others.

Here are some tips for fraternal correction. Firstly, we must have a solid knowledge of Catholic morality. If we are doubtful, we consult the catechism of the Catholic Church or good and capable priests near you. We must remember that fraternal correction deals primarily with sinful behaviors and false doctrines. Of course, we may correct them in other aspects of their lives. Secondly, we can start with our loved ones, those closest to us. We do it with gentleness and patience. As Jesus said, we do it first privately so as not to be seen by others, and we might become prideful. Thirdly, if our correction faces strong resistance, we read ‘Ezekiel 33’ (our first reading). Though seeing our loved ones far from God is frustrating, we must also trust God’s providence.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP 

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