Today we begin a series of sermons on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy here at OLG. This is part of our programming for this Year of Mercy. We begin with the first Spiritual Work of Mercy: Admonishing the Sinner. To admonish someone is to warn or caution the person about something, to guide them away from the path a destruction they are walking.
There are many people we know who are on paths of destruction, stuck in ruts of sin. The Christian’s job is to lovingly call them to something better, to a better way. That is, the Christian’s job is to admonish them.
This is not easy. After all, it is not easy to tell someone we love that they are sinning. It is not easy to tell a friend they should be going to church, or a son that he shouldn’t be living with his girlfriend before marriage. It is not easy to call out a husband or wife on something. It is not easy to tell someone we love who is divorced that they need to get an annulment, or to tell somebody that leaving Church jeopardizes their souls.
But, this we must do. If we saw someone we love about to walk in front of a bus, we would admonish them–that is, we would warn them away from that path of destruction. There are a lot of people who put their souls in front of a bus.
This does not make us popular oftentimes, at least at the moment. We live in a culture where people often feel like someone only loves them if that person affirms them in all that they are doing. If you loved me, you wouldn’t tell me I should be at church, or that my lifestyle is incompatible with the Gospel. But we know that kind of thinking is ridiculous. We love our young kids enough to tell them to stay away from the outlet even if they cry about it.
We show love, we show mercy most when we are looking out for the souls of those we love, and when we care enough about them to call them to life with God.
And that’s the most important thing. We must be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers. Look at the first reading. There we see Peter and some other apostles proclaiming the Lord, even though the high priest and the other powers that be had given strict orders against it and promised to make them suffer for it. They knew that they had to please God first and that they did.
The second reading tells us about the choirs of angels in heaven. Folks, the court of heaven rejoices every time we call others to live with God, to step out from in front of the bus. The angels rejoice, heaven rejoices. We must be God-pleasers, heaven-pleasers, before all else.
Today, we pray God’s grace to gently admonish those we love when the opportunities arise to do so. And we pray God for the grace to be admonished. Because we are all sinners and need it.