Pope at Angelus: Fraternal correction an expression of great love
By Devin Watkins
As pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny Roman Sunday, Pope Francis prayed the traditional Marian prayer of the Angelus.
In remarks ahead of the prayer, the Pope shared his thoughts on the day’s Gospel (Mt 8:15-20), which recounts Jesus’ teaching on the proper way to deal with someone whom we feel has wronged us.
Expression of love
Fraternal correction, said Pope Francis, is “one of the highest expressions of love, and also one of the most demanding.”
“When a brother in faith wrongs you, then you, without rancour, should help him by correcting him,” he said.
However, acknowledged the Holy Father, the first step we most often take is that of spreading gossip about a person instead of confronting them directly and privately.
Such an attitude “does not please God,” he said, recalling his many reminders that “gossip is a plague on the life of people and communities”.
Gossip, added the Pope, leads to “division, suffering, and scandal, and never helps improve or grow”, but rather plunges us toward perdition and ruin, according to St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
Pope Francis noted that Jesus offers us a better path when we have been injured by someone.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”
The Pope urged Christians to speak to one another “face to face” in order to help the other person understand their fault.
“Do it for their own good, overcoming shame and finding true courage, which is not to slander, but to tell them to their face with meekness and gentleness,” he said.
If, after a private and frank conversation, the person does not mend their ways, we may look for help from others.
“Beware, though: not from the group that gossips!” said the Pope. Rather, we should seek help from people who “genuinely want to lend a hand to this misguided brother or sister.”
And if even after these first two steps have been pursued and no change has taken place, then we may turn to the community, not to pillory or publicly shame the person, but to “unite our efforts to help them change.”
“Pointing the finger is not good; in fact, it often makes it more difficult for the wrongdoer to recognize their mistake,” said Pope Francis. “Rather, the community must make them feel that, while it condemns the mistake, it is near with prayer and affection, always ready to offer forgiveness and to start over.”
Seeking path of goodness
In conclusion, Pope Francis invited us to consider our attitude toward those who wrong us.
“Do I keep it inside and accumulate resentment? Do I talk about it behind their backs? Or do I try to talk to him or her? Do I pray for him or her, ask for help to do good?”
And he asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to help each of us seek the path of goodness in our relationships with others.