True fraternal reprimand is painful because it is done with love, in truth and humility. Moreover it is unchristian to take pleasure when reprimanding someone. This was the focus of Pope Francis homily Friday during Mass in Santa Marta, on the day when the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Holy Name of Mary.
The Pope was reflecting on the Gospel passage where Jesus warns against noticing the splinter in our brother’s eye but failing to see the wooden beam in our own. This inspired him to return to the subject of fraternal reprimand. First, he said, the erring brother should be reprimanded with charity.
“You cannot reprimand a person without love and charity. [Just like] you cannot perform surgery without anesthesia: you cannot, because the patient will die from the pain. And charity is like an anesthetic that helps you to receive treatment and accept reprimand. Take him to one side and talk to him, with gentleness, with love”.
Secondly, – he continued – we must speak the truth: “Do not say something that is not true. How often in our community are things said about another person that are not true: they are slander. Or if they are true, they destroy the person’s reputation”. “Gossip – the Pope repeated – hurt; gossip are a slap in the face of a person’s reputation, they are an attack on the heart of a person. “Sure – he observed – “when they tell you the truth is not nice to hear, but if it is spoken with charity and love, it is easier to accept”. Therefore, “we must speak of other people’s defects” with charity.
Thirdly, we must reprimand with humility: “If you really need to reprimand a little flaw, stop and remember that you have many more and far bigger!”
“Fraternal reprimand is an act that heals the Body of the Church. There’s a tear, there, in the fabric of the Church that we must mend. And like mothers and grandmothers, who mend so gently, so delicately, we must do likewise when we want to reprimand our brother. If you’re not able to do this with love, charity, truth and humility, you will offend, you will destroy the heart of that person, you will add to gossip, that hurts, and you will become a blind hypocrite, just as Jesus says. Hypocrite, first take the wooden beam out of your own eye. …’. Hypocrite! Recognize that you are the more sinful than the other, but you, as a brother must help to reprimand the other”.
“A sign that perhaps can help us in this” – said the Pope – is when we feel “a certain delight” when “we see something wrong” and consider it our job to deliver a reprimand: you have to be “careful because that is not coming from the Lord”.
“The Cross, the difficulty of doing a good thing is ever present in the Lord; the love that leads us, the meekness is always of the Lord. Do not judge. We Christians tend to behave like doctors: stand on the sidelines of the game between sin and grace as if we were angels … No! Paul says:’ for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified ‘. And a Christian who, in the community, does not do things – even fraternal reprimand – in love, in truth and humility, is disqualified! He has failed to become a mature Christian. May the Lord help us in this fraternal service, which is as beautiful as it is painful, to help our brothers and sisters to be better and help us to always do it with love, in truth and humility”.