Richard Turner, the cartoonist, pictured a park with a priest seated on a bench. Before him stands a little boy about 5 years old. Apparently the priest has just reminded the lad that he should treat others as he wants others to treat him because the boy is pictured answering: "But I can't treat others the way I wish they would treat me. I don't get that much allowance!"
Folks, these scriptures today really encourage us to speak up with the Golden Rule in mind when we know without a doubt that what someone else is doing is wrong or sinful. We may have been told, "Who are we to judge our neighbor?" This may have kept our mouths shut. Yet, the prophet Ezekiel really makes it clear that if we keep our mouths shut and do not try to point out the wrongdoing of someone else, we will be held responsible for it because we said or did nothing. After all, they may not see what they are doing is wrong because no one has ever said anything to them before.
Choosing not to say anything on our part when we should have then would have been a sin of omission for us. Something we failed to say or do that we knew was the right thing to do. We may think we are not good enough with words or cannot speak tactfully enough for anyone to listen to us anyway. Yet, our reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans reminds us that if we "owe nothing to anyone except to love one another," we will always be doing the right thing. Is it love when we say nothing even though the wrong being done may jeopardize the person committing it or others who may be its recipient? No, we know it is not. Our problem in this may not be in figuring out what needs to be said, only perhaps in how we should say it. We know that to correct others is the duty of some people. Parents, teaches, pastors, coaches all have this duty. Yet, the challenge for all of us today is to always consider what we know to be the Golden Rule before opening our mouths. It is not always so much what we say but how we say it that allows it to be heard or not heard. Timing, tact, tone of voice, facial expression-all of these help in getting our point across to correct our brother or sister. The Golden Rule helps us to correct our husbands, our wives, our children, a co-worker, a chance acquaintance or a long-time friend just as we would want him or her to offer correction to us.
For instance, some Catholics think it is OK to marry another person outside of the Catholic Church. Now, I am not saying a Catholic cannot marry a non-Catholic. What I am saying is that the Catholic Faith has always taught that a Catholic must marry with the Church's blessing, inside the Catholic Church having a validly ordained priest or deacon either officiating or taking part in the ceremony giving official witness of the Church for the couple getting married. Why this teaching? Well, for one reason, Holy Matrimony is a sacrament that gives the new couple graces and strength to live out their Faith in God and honor their vows to one another. And marrying without the blessing of the Church means for the Catholic that God does not recognize their union. The Catechism is very clear on this point. I, as a Priest, or anyone else does not have the right to omit this requirement for any Catholic.
You know though that in pointing out the faults or errors of others, we need to be sure to emphasize that the fault is not so much an offense against us as it is an offense against God and neighbor. Their fault may displease us, yet, it displeases Almighty God more. As Jesus mentions in the Gospel reading today, we may have to call in one or two others to back up our correction. Our Lord even talks about the extreme situation where the offender will not listen to anyone. We should then tell the Church or the group authority. If he or she refuses to listen to even higher authority, then we should not feel bad if we have to tell them to leave.
For if certain people have the duty of giving correction, then certain people have the duty of accepting correction. It takes humility and it takes honesty to accept a correction, no doubt! To offer a correction as well as accept a correction requires God's help. Keeping this in mind, if we offer corrections with love remembering the Golden Rule-we will be heard, and if not, we may find ourselves too often on the wrong side trying to do the right thing.
May God Bless us in our efforts trying to do the right things, doing what we can to right the wrongs around us!!