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
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
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