Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
True Christian charity obliges a Christian not only to help his neighbours in their temporal and spiritual needs by alms and by prayer but also to correct an erring brother or sister in his/her sins are public. If the erring brother refuses the charitable correction, Matthew then outlines what the duty of the Church is. It has power to forgive sin but that power can be effective only if the sinner repents and decides to give up his sinful way of living. He then mentions the efficiency of community prayer as contrasted with one’s private prayer, for Christ is present in the Christian community.
Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians today who pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother or sister to give up his/her sinful ways. They shrug it off by saying: “I have more than enough to do to keep myself from sin” or “am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is in this Gospel. We are out brother’s or sister’s keepers, and even if we have many temptations and inclinations to sine we shall not overcome them if we have no time to think about neighbor’s need.
There are millions of lapsed or lukewarm Christians who could and would have been active members of Christ’s mystical body if their neighbours had fulfilled this grave obligation which Christ has imposed on us all. They are a source of scandal to the weaker and younger members of the Church, and an impediment to the possible acceptance of the faith by non-Christians.
Let us see our present day obligations and what we are doing to help our neighbours retain their Christian faith and practice. How much of the indifference to religion which the youth of today seems to be showing is due to the lack of parental guidance and example? How many children of Christian families grow up as practical pagan because their Christian faith meant little or nothing to their parents? It is in the home that the religion of the next generation is firmly established or lost. When parents are loyal to their faith in their daily lives, their children will, as a rule, be loyal to it too; where parents are careless and lax their children will be still more careless and more lax.
Parents are the first neighbours and fellow Christians who you must kindly and charitably correct are your own children. Their future salvation and your own too will depend on how well you fulfill this obligation. Parents who are obedient to Christ in this will find time and many opportunities to have a charitable word of help for an erring neighbour outside their household.
On the other hand, the lax parents, who give little or no thought to getting to heaven or to their children getting there in God’s good time, will hardly bother with their neighbour’s salvation. Thus, this cancer of infidelity and irreligion grows and spreads.
Let each one of us look into his/her past conduct in relation to this law of charity. Have we really tried to help our fellow Christian on the road to heaven? Have we given them the good example of a truly Christian way of living? Have we offered advice and encouragement when it was needed, and correction in private where that was possible? If so, we have gained our brother/sister. We have brought a prodigal son/daughter to a loving Father and that loving Father will repay us a hundred-fold in this life and especially in the next. Amen.