CORRECTION WITH LOVE
????Ezek 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7abc, 7d-9 (R.7d, 8a); Rom 13:8-10; Matt 18:15-20
Conversion is at the heart of Christs ministry on earth. Right from the beginning, it was obvious that it is the key that opens up the kingdom of God to all. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the content of the very first words of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry is based on repentance, Repent for the kingdom of God is near (Matt 4:17; see also Mark 1:15).
Even before Christ, right from the moment that man drifted away from the love of God because of sin, God began the process of calling him back. This was done at some points in time, through leaders in Israel judges, priests, kings and prophets. These leaders presented the oracle of God to the people and the wellbeing of the people depends largely upon them. That is why the Book of Proverbs says, When the virtuous rule, the people are happy, but they groan when the wicked are in power (Prov 29:2).
It is within the above context that we shall understand the oracle of the prophet Ezekiel in the first Reading today. Since the leaders are seen as intermediaries between God and men, they must guide the people in the right path whenever they go astray. The leader who fails to do so would be culpable and would be held responsible for the soul of the one that is placed under him. Note also that the conversion process needs a complimentary relationship between the leader and the follower. When the leader corrects, the follower must respond with a change. The First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel all point to that fact. The leader would not be liable for the soul of a follower who decides to turn deaf ear to the corrections he is given.
Nonetheless, the Second Reading emphatically encourages us all to embrace love in all things, and let that guide us in our relationship with others. Love helps in great way in the building of a community. In 1 Cor 13:4-7, St. Paul listed the characteristics of love, Love is patient, kind, without envykeeps no score of offencesexcuses all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. We can see the great connection that has with the Gospel where Jesus encourages brotherly correction.
Jesus himself gives us example to follow in his lifestyle, such that even when the Gospel says that after correcting and the person fails to listen, Let him be to you as a Gentile or tax collector (Matt 18:17), we need to pause and ask ourselves, How did Jesus treat these groups of people? He never treated them like outcasts but still followed them with love, hoping for their repentance (cf. Matt 9:9-13). He summarized everything in Luke 6:27ff, But I say to you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse and pray for those who treat you bad And on the cross, he gave summed up his example in these words, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
Jesus is never tired of loving us; we should not be tired of loving and correcting others in love.
Peace be with you.