23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 10, 2017)

Today’s Gospel challenges us to love one another in light of “fraternal correction,” a concept lost in our culture. St. Francis de Sales speaks of it in light of true friendship:

It often happens that when we have high regard for friends, we can absorb their imperfections. Certainly we must love our friends in spite of their faults. Yet, true friendship requires us to share the true good, not evil. Thus, just as gold diggers leave the sand on the bank and take the gold they find, so also those who share in a true friendship ought to remove the sand of its imperfections, and not let this sand get into their souls.

True friendship can live only on true virtue. It comes from God, leads to God and its bond endures eternally in God. It is a weak friendship that passively watches our friends take the wrong path: to let them perish rather than to courageously help them with the lance of correction. Genuine, living friendships cannot continue in the midst of vice. If it is only a passing vice, a true friendship will put it to flight by correction.

When we correct with compassion rather than anger, repentance will sink in far deeper and penetrate more effectively. Nothing so quickly calms down an angry elephant as the sight of a little lamb. When reason brings along rage, it is feared rather than loved. But reason without anger peaceably chastises, corrects, and warns, even though it might be severe and exact. A father’s gentle, loving rebuke has far greater power to correct a child than rage and passion.

Blessed are they who speak only to give “fraternal correction” in a spirit of sacred love and profound humility! More blessed are those who are ready to receive it with a gentle, peaceful and tranquil heart! In being humble, faithful and courageous, they have already made great progress, and will arrive at the highest degree of Christian holiness.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially,

Introduction to the Devout Life)