By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE HAVE to be familiar with this practice which I think is increasingly needed these days.
I know it’s an unpleasant thing, both for the giver and the recipient. But the matter involved can be crucial and silence about it can be fatal or at least can give rise to dangerous potentials.
It’s a practice recommended by our Lord himself in the gospel. “If your brother shall offend against you, go and rebuke him between you and him alone. If he shall hear you, you shall gain your brother,” he said. (Mt 18,15)
All of us need correction, if not always then at least at one time or another. No matter how good, smart and clever we may be, we certainly have defects and we commit mistakes that need to be corrected.
With the present pace of development where we are drawn to more and more new things and unfamiliar situations, the chances of us committing mistakes and getting stuck with our weakness are multiplied.
And given our human condition that blinds us to most of our frailties, we cannot rely solely on ourselves for these corrections to take place. We need others, as brothers and sisters who truly care for us, to point them out to us.
If done and received with the proper dispositions and ways, then these corrections can truly be considered not only as coming from our brothers and sisters, but from God himself.
The fraternal correction can become a genuine manifestation of charity, deepening our friendship and fraternity with the others. It enables us to fulfill an important part of the gospel message of being a Good Shepherd to the others.
We also relive what is said in the Letter to the Hebrews: “For whom the Lord loves, he chastises, and he scourges every son whom he receives. For what son is there whom the father does not correct.” (12:6-7)
We have to understand that God’s love for us, which is the pattern of our love for one another, blends maximum patience and affection with maximum rigor and strictness.
This is more because of our human condition. If God alone would have his way, so to speak, he surely would shower us with all sweetness. This, I imagine, is what heavenly bliss is all about.
But here on earth, God has to contend with the way we use or misuse our freedom. With our limitations, not to mention our mistakes and sins, God has to use both soft and hard means, gentle and harsh ways to guide and govern us.
Since we are his children, created in his image and likeness, we are asked to participate in his divine providence over us. Thus, we too cannot avoid having to use both soft and hard means to govern ourselves.
The fraternal correction should be widely used especially in the family. Children grow mightily when corrections are made on them. But it should also be done generously in other areas, especially among peers and colleagues.
Among priests, for example, the practice of fraternal correction is highly recommended. Bishops should take the lead. This is what the document “Pastores gregis” says about the matter:
“In cases of grave lapses, and even more of crimes which do damage to the very witness of the Gospel, especially when these involve the Church’s ministers, the Bishop must be firm and decisive, just and impartial.
“He is bound to intervene in a timely manner, according to the established canonical norms, for the correction and spiritual good of the sacred minister, for the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice, and for all that is required for the protection and assistance of victims.” (21)
But even before things become very serious, fraternal corrections should already be given generously. Usually they can be in the areas of prudence, as in the priest’s relations with women and in his public actuations.
Or in the way a priest carries out his duties. First would be his own life of prayer and the sacraments, then in his preaching, in his availability and manner of serving the people. Suggestions and corrections can abound here.