Are You a Reformer or a Saint?
What is the difference between and reformer and a saint? The reformer is focused on the sins of other people while the saint is more concerned about his or her own sins. Understandably, we look at the reformer with distrust and instinctively love the saint. We don’t want to gain the reputation of a reformer and be more than willing to undertake the correction of our brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, we tend to be content with commenting on other people’s wrongdoing behind their backs instead of confronting wrongdoers in an open face-to face dialogue which the gospel recommends. Slander and gossip are far easier than frank confrontation. But to make known someone’s sin to any single individual is itself a sin, even if what we report is in strict conformity with the truth. That is why Jesus talks about a method to deal with wrongdoers that is quite more effective and charitable than backbiting. We need to realize better why we are mandated to confront our brothers and sisters when they go astray, why we cannot say like Cain after he murdered his brother Abel “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and ignore those around us who are in danger of losing their way.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council state: “As first-born of many brethren and through the gift of his Spirit, he founded after his death and resurrection a new brotherly community composed of all those who receive him in faith and in love. This he did through his Body, which is the Church. Therefore everyone, as members one of the other, would render mutual service according to the different gifts bestowed on each. This solidarity must be constantly increased until that day on which it will be brought to perfection. Then, saved by grace, men will offer flawless glory to God as a family beloved of God and of Christ their Brother… “ (Gaudium et Spes, 32)
The council speaks of our mandate to render mutual service, which includes fraternal correction. As a spiritual family, we have to correct one another as brothers and sisters in God’s family. If we at one point have benefited from fraternal correction, why should we deny a similar benefit to an erring brother or sister? If we proceed in love, using tact and gentleness and choosing most favorable opportunity, with God’s help we can succeed in this difficult but necessary mandate of fraternal correction.
Let’s remember what St James has to say: “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)