We are living in difficult times, a far cry from when elders had the authority to correct youngsters. In the past, children weren’t pulled up by their parents alone; just anyone felt empowered to reprimand any erring person. There probably were abuses in this regard, but then, by and large, life was based on well-established rules, customs, traditions. This ensured a system of checks and balances among individuals or groups of people.

To say that it is easier said than done is to adopt the past of least resistance. We fail to notice how, on the other hand, forces of evil have long been proactive in toppling authority and ushering in a reign of unbridled freedom. It is by a “Revolution” such as this, as the Brazilian Catholic thinker Professor Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira prophetically describes in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution,[1] that we have come to this pass. Relativistic thinking – the belief that there is no absolute truth, right and wrong, true and false, good and bad – has pulled the rug from under our feet.

Against this background, are we in a position to “warn the wicked to turn from his way” as in the First Reading (Ezek. 33: 7-9) God urges that Prophet of the Spirit of God to do? The wicked would quickly retort: ‘Who are you to admonish me? You may think you are right, but I too am right!’ This is the tenor of the times. Nonetheless, we ought to pay heed to God’s warning that the “wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”

If the wicked do not change their ways, they shall die, whereas we shall have the consolation of having corrected them, and shall be saved. Let us therefore pluck up the courage to do our duty. The open secret is to act with tact and consideration; not out of self-interest, but out of love. It is quite another matter if our love and concern are misconstrued; others will always judge us by their standards, sometimes making grief the price we have to pay for the love we have shared. How many of you can relate to such a situation?

In what way do we express love? St Paul in the Second Reading (Rom 13: 8-10) says: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another… for love is the fulfilling of the law.” But again, what is this love? It is not amorous and sentimental love that is in question here but, rather, the love of God – the first of the Christian virtues which involves following His commandments. Which is where a secular or an atheistic society makes it fundamentally difficult for Christians to have a lucid notion of the divine order of things and follow it. Nowadays, it is more about pleasing ourselves than about pleasing God; and those who stand by Him are considered out of step with the times. A recipe for disorder indeed.

Disorderliness has been part of the human DNA ever since Original Sin; and the situation keeps getting worse every time we offend God. That is why, in a godless world, misunderstanding, anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, friction and strife are widespread. Note the instances of cold war, not to speak of open criticism, badmouthing and even lawsuits between family members – instead of justice sought through the Church.

As the Gospel (Mt 18: 15-20) recommends, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” And there is a whole set of steps to be taken to reach the logical conclusion. And what Jesus further tells His disciples is sublime: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

All this calls for effort, dedication and care. Above all, it calls for prayer, for Our Lord has said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It speaks volumes of the close connect between Heaven and Earth, of us as God’s children who He loves and cares for, and of the free will He has endowed us with. And “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven,” is not business management or the product of our efforts, but divine management!

So, how does the life of an honourable person look like in our day and age? According to Professor Oliveira, he or she is often forced to keep “a disheartened silence – a sad condition: ‘Vae Soli’ (‘Woe to him that is alone’).”[2] For its part, society, by either overtly or covertly saying that God is dead, makes the confusion worse confounded. At any rate, while we put our hope and trust in God alone, we ought to persevere on our path of denouncing evil when we encounter it and promoting peace. If the Son of Man Himself was put to death, what more can we say about cutting against the grain?

[1] https://www.pliniocorreadeoliveira.info/UK_RCR.pdf

[2] Ibid., p. 58