Today’s readings insist that we have a duty, an obligation to help those we know to get on the path of God. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to “admonish the sinner.” That means that, in love, we correct when correction is necessary.
An example. If a bus is coming down the road, and we see someone in the way, it is our duty to help them out. Perhaps they are looking up into the air, or maybe they’re on their phone. Maybe they are there on purpose. Maybe they’re rich, maybe poor. It doesn’t matter!
In fact, St Paul says it great in our second reading: we owe each other love! As St Mother Teresa said, “We belong to each other.” We are all brothers and sisters, because we are all sons and daughters of God. It is our duty to help each other out, to push one another out of the way when danger comes.
Why? Because it matters to us if someone is in a bad place, especially when that place that will kill them if no action is taken.
I think about the hurricanes and earthquakes of late, that have afflicted Mexico and Texas and Florida and so many places. The bus of a hurricane has come, and it’s our job to help out its victims. That’s why we have a second collection. That’s why we’re planning our trip. Because even if we don’t know anyone in Texas, they’re still our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
And then there are sins. When someone we know is in a bad place, doing some sin, in front of the bus, going down the bad road….it is our job to do what we can to fix the situation. In our first reading from Eziekel, God says: if there is a wicked man doing wicked things, and you see him but don’t do anything to help him stop–not only will he be in trouble, but so will you. In other words, you see a guy in front of the bus but you don’t push him away. Jesus says the same in our Gospel: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault….”
That is, admonish the sinner. Get them off the bad road. Remove them from in front of the bus.
Months ago a mother was crying to me. She was distraught because her son was at college and not going to Mass. She was terribly worried, with good reason. I asked her what she had done to help the situation….and she said, “Well, I’ve yelled at him!” It didn’t work. Sometimes we have to be creative and innovative in how we admonish the sinner. Maybe, instead of yelling, it would be better to share, in passing, about how much the Mass means to you….”I heard the best homily of my life,” you might say! Or talk about the Eucharist, or the blessing of belonging to this great community.
Another example. Maybe you know a gossip monger or two. Maybe, instead of just sitting there quietly when someone is badmouthing another, maybe we should say something nice about that person being badmouthed. That might be a good way to admonish.
Th bottom line is, it takes a village to get to heaven. We need to help each other out, point it out in a loving and kind way when someone we love is in front of a bus, in a place that leads to destruction….both here and hereafter. And there are a lot of people standing in front of the proverbial bus.
I do know this. People will, in the long run, appreciate it. Imagine, if you were in front of a bus and a man named George came along and pushed you out of the way, and died while saving you. Not a day would go by we wouldn’t thank God for George and his sacrifice.
Friends, that is Jesus. Jesus saw the bus coming and pushed us out of the way. Now we owe it to him to follow his example.