We have heard the quote by- Edmund Burke
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. "
Our faith calls us in the Mass to confess our sins, the bad we have done and the good we have failed to do. Today we are looking at that part about the good we have failed to do, because today this is a very popular sin, which I admit here that I am guilty of. To be specific, I am guilty of not doing one of the spiritual works of mercy.
Just to remind you in case you have forgotten them, though these should be memorized; Here are the works of mercy.
The Corporal works of mercy are
- To feed the hungry;
- To give drink to the thirsty;
- To clothe the naked;
- To shelter the homeless;
- To visit the sick;
- To ransom the captive;
- To bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
- To instruct the ignorant;
- To counsel the doubtful;
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead;
- To admonish sinners.
Now out of respect for people I will only speak about myself in such matters because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Today, out of so-called ‘human respect’ I don’t always admonish sinners because I was taught, “if you are not going to say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Now this saying is good when it comes to your neighbor’s apple pie that had two cups of salt in it instead of two cups of sugar; I am not talking about that. I am talking about when my old friend, who is recently divorced, asks me what I think of his new girlfriend and I say that she is nice. What I ought to have said is remind him that he is still married to his wife. I would say it in some charitable way, but do say it.
Now this might hurt his feelings, and I might loose his friendship, but I might save his soul, and his new girlfriend’s soul as well. John the Baptist lost his head over such a case. In England in the 1500’s when Henry VIII was breaking away from the Catholic Church, only one bishop objected to this, and didn’t fall into apostasy and that was St. John Fisher.
Now I want to read to you what Jesus will say to us on judgment day and notice that all of these sins are sins of omission.
Matthew 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' "Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
God speaks to Ezekiel on this exact same topic, yet on the matter of admonishing the sinner.
Ezekiel 33:7-9 "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me. "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life.”
So God tells Ezekiel, if you admonish the sinner, and he doesn’t listen to you then the sin is his own fault. But if you don’t admonish the sinner, his sin will be both your faults. So this is serious business.
Now, does this mean that we should go around and start nitpicking everything everyone is doing? I don’t think so. If we are spiritually alert, I think the Holy Spirit will set the scene and we need to keep in mind that we should do all things with love, but don’t forget to actually do them.
I am fortunate in my own life to have a godfather as well as other friends who have in the past corrected me, sometimes quite forcefully. Yes, I was totally embarrassed, but later when I cooled off, I realized that he was right and I was wrong and that I should correct my behavior, and I thank God for him and others who love me enough to let me know when I am wandering off the path.
Now it is here that I warn myself, that because our society today finds correction such a terrible sin, that this will lead me to the same place that it lead my master and that is the cross. Just think, Jesus admonished the sinners perfectly, and it got him crucified, how can I hope for any better outcome.
Here is an objection. Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged.” 'Hey man, your judging me!'
Here is our response. No man, I am not saying that you will burn in hell like a bucket of chicken if you keep doing that bad behavior. What I am telling you is that your behavior is bad and that Jesus told us not to do that. If you claim to follow Jesus, he told us that, that kind of thing offends him in a serious way that our souls could be in danger of hell.
So I really need to change my life.