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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

FRATERNAL CORRECTION 

(Matthew 18:15-20)

Fraternal correction is a higher form of good works; it is superior to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Because it is superior, it demands greater maturity from the Christian soul. Not everyone can correct the brethren.

For someone to qualify to correct others, he must first be a good corrector of self, i.e. he must be one who can discover his own disobedience to the commands of Christ. This presumes he knows all the commands of Christ. For how can he know the faults of others if he cannot find out his own faults.

In the Gospel, Christ gives a command to both offender and offended; but the Gospel text is directed more to the offended. The offender is advised to repent; while the offended is advised to forgive, to love, to correct and to pray for the offender.

If someone offends you, Christ gives a procedure to save both the offended and the offender because both have become losers. The offended soul has lost a brother and the offender has lost his chances of salvation. Christís command is meant for the offended to win a brother and for the offender to save his soul.

Christ, in encouraging the offended soul to greater heights of charity, commands that he show the offender the evils of his fault and how this fault is a disobedience to the commands of Christ. The offended does not show the manner he was offended. The correction, done in private, must show the offender that the harm done is to himself. For an offended to show this to the offender can win the latter.

If the private correction does not work, it means there is a greater obstacle to overcome in the soul of the offended. Another witness is needed. The complementary knowledge and charity of two concerned brethren should move the offenderís heart. If this does not work yet, then Christ wants us to call on the community. The public humiliation is the last instrument in an attempt at fraternal correction. If this does not work still, then, there is nothing else that can be done for the offending brethren.

This manner of correction is to be done only for offending brethren, i.e., to persons who are truly seeking God. Chrysostom specifies that this is only for monks. This is not done to worldly Christians who are not serious in seeking God. To do this to anybody would be inviting trouble. This manner of correction, in modern language, is done only to members of religious communities. Even in this case, it rarely works. How much more if applied to Christians in the world.

The first private correction, however, must be applied to everybody. The three corrections should be done within the family, which is the model of the monastery or religious community as the house in Nazareth was.

It is nearly impossible to correct people in the world not related to us. The Evangelical admonition mentioned above does not apply to them. But because we are obliged to give at least the first correction, we are, in effect, inviting their ire. But then, through charity, we are still obliged to do so.

BLESSED THEOPHYLACT ON THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW  

 

 

 

 

(updated 03-18-02)

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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