To err is human, to correct is divine?

by May Tam

When it comes to point out others' faults, there are two very distinct types of people. One is too ready to pinpoint even the slightest mistakes of others and the other too tolerant for any offenses (intentional or unintentional) committed. The subject matter of today's readings are not only about conflicts among individuals, but also about sinning against God's law.

Correcting others' errors is never easy. In the First Reading, prophet Ezekiel, being the spokesman of God, was laden with a heavy task. He was to warn “the wicked” to turn back to God. Needless to say, it requires great courage and boldness and there is no tolerance nor delay as it is a matter of life and death. At first glance, God seems to be very stern to those who broke the law. He pronounced their death sentence. Upon a deeper reflection, God's divine love is revealed. The death of the wicked is a result of their iniquities, unrepentance and God's justice. God has offered His love and mercy by sending them warnings even to the point that their sins would be upon the prophet if he fails to warn them.

There is no clearer message of God's love in the Gospel reading when Jesus advises three steps to deal with offenders in a Christian community. They are practical ways to moderate the polarities of attitudes when confrontations arise. The first is reconciliation in private. The second is negotiation with two or three witnesses (semi-private) and finally, resorting to adjudication (public). When every possible way to resolve has been exhausted, for the good of the community, the offender has to be treated as an “outsider” and no longer as a part of God's people. This punishment; however, is by no means final. Once the offender repents, he/she can return to the fold again and Jesus promised that when there is a gathering of people who pray, their prayer is most effective. In other words, out of love, Christian communities should try to regain their lost sheep through prayers.

St Paul, in the Second Reading, summarized the essence of God's law, that is, love. In our present time when relativism and individualism are social norms, in exercising correction of others' faults, even legitimate and constructive criticisms must be done in care and love. Today, let us remind ourselves we are responsible for each other. Let us ask for the grace to pray for those who err and for ourselves, a humble heart which desires only to do good for others.