The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
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—Taken from the Saint Isaac Jogues Illuminated Missal, Gradual, and Lectionary.
HE GOSPEL AND FIRST READING today are obviously about giving advice to a sinner or someone who is doing wrong. The Gospel selection has Jesus giving us several courses of action when it comes to what we might call “admonishing the sinner.” As with this part of the Bible or Jesus’ teachings, we generally cannot focus on one part without keeping the totality of Jesus’ teachings and practice in mind. Coupled with this is always the need of the practice of two very important virtues: wisdom and prudence.
Wisdom and prudence: Briefly we might say that wisdom is knowing what to do and prudence is knowing when to do something. At times it can be hard to say just what we should do…or when we should be practicing these virtues. Often we will know when a person doesn’t practice them. It is often rather easy—after someone has does something that turns out to be very unwise or imprudent—to say: “That was not a very wise or prudent thing to do.”
Admonishing the sinner: And yes this can come into play when we are faced with situations where there might be the opportunity to “admonish the sinner” or offer advice to someone who is doing something wrong. Should we always? Do we always have to? Do we have the obligation? I can’t answer that question with a simple “yes” or “no.” And I hope I’m not shocking anyone by my having to say that I don’t have a “ready-made” answer for you. I don’t—and it would be foolish on my part to stand up here and act as if I did.
Further complications: And I don’t deny the fact that in this day and age matters are further complicated because so many of our Catholics are poorly instructed in their Catholic Faith…especially in the last forty or fifty years. This is true even if they have attended so-called “Catholic” schools. Maybe some of you think I’m just being sarcastic or cynical, and I wish that would be the case. But somehow or other you people who regularly attend Mass here have kept the Catholic faith. People who go to confession here certainly know how to go to confession. But believe me, that is not the case in all places. Hearing confessions for children who attend Catholic schools is often quite unpleasant for the priests who may be involved. Why? The poor children usually—unless they have been taught by their parents—don’t have the slightest idea of what to do when they come in. The priest has to explain to each child what must be done for confession. Usually, all they learn in school is something about having a nice “chat with father.” This gets rather exhausting when you have to do that fifty or more times in succession.
A digression: Admittedly, what I just said or talked about was a digression from the main topic today, but hopefully it is one example to show how you differ from the general “run of the mill” Catholic. Fortunately, your type of Catholic is growing; the other type is fading away.
Example of Jesus: I said something before about using “wisdom and prudence” when it comes to admonishing the sinner—or even when it comes to our offering advice about such matters. Examining the life of Jesus, we find He acted differently in different circumstances. Sometimes He offered advice and admonitions. Other times, He seems to have said nothing. I often used to wonder why Jesus did not appear to Pilate, the high priests, and the other Jewish leaders on Easter Sunday morning and say: “Now, look at me; now that I have risen from the dead. Aren’t you sorry for what you have done?” I remember this question being asked in one of our Scripture classes in our Theology course, and I was very curious as to what our professor would say! When asked “why didn’t Jesus appear to Pilate, the chief priests, and those who were responsible for His being put to death,” our professor answered, “Jesus did not appear to them out of mercy for their souls. Jesus knew that if He did appear, they still would not have believed; it would only have made their sin greater.” We, too, might remember that whenever we consider giving someone advice about what they are doing.