Prudent Generosity WLR Homilies

Everyone wants to be generous, but many times we fail to act generously. How do we decide how to be generous? We need prudence to be able to make decisions about the best way to be generous. Prudence is the virtue directed towards choosing the means towards happiness. But here’s the thing: for us as Christians, prudence must consider an eternal perspective. We are not made for merely natural flourishing, but eternity with heaven. In the end, all the material things will fall away. The material has a place, but it is not everything. In the end, the material things, even honor, prestige, and all the things we fear losing in this world will evaporate. The things will not matter in themselves but only how we used them or failed to use them in service to their more excellent end – charity towards God and our neighbor. In the twilight of our lives, says St. John of the Cross, we will be judged by our love
  1. Prudent Generosity
  2. Non-Anxious Rendering
  3. Will you go to the feast?
  4. Hurting and Healing
  5. Amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo

Our culture greatly values tolerance and niceness. Consider, “you do you,” “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all,” are so widespread that we have to admit that they have become jokes among many young people.

Giovanni Serodine – Parting of Sts Peter and Paul Led to Martyrdom

We want people to be kind to one another. We want people to be tolerant of one another. But I fear, brothers and sisters, that sometimes we mistakenly think that kindness towards a person, means tolerating, without judgement their actions.  Our culture teaches us, that to be a be a friend, to be loving to another person means that we must unquestioningly accept everything they do as good.

In the face of this, Jesus presents us with a challenging command, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” Such a command means that Christ assumes several things which are at odds with our way of thinking: 

First, there is such a thing as sin, objectively speaking.  Second, this command means that we have to judge that our brother has sinned against us. But elsewhere, Christ tells us to judge not lest you be judged. Is Christ contradicting himself? No. Here Christ commands us to judge the action of our brother – not to judge his intention, nor the state of his soul, nor whether he is worthy of mercy, nor what punishment he should receive. Third, it assumes that telling someone that they did something wrong, far from being sinful, could actually be a praiseworthy act. This implies that it is an act of Charity. 

Christ commands us to rebuke our brother when he sins against us, just as he himself rebuked those who sinned against God. Our Lord Jesus was not, strictly speaking, nice to those folks. But he was charitable.

A man’s sin always carries with it a multitude of evils. But principally we can divide them into two areas: sin hurts the community and it hurts the sinner. The latter is more significant than the former. The one or the community who is sinned against loses something temporary and passing – perhaps of great worth – but not of ultimate worth. However, the one who sins grievously risks losing eternal life.

Because it has two principle effects, there are two different remedies for sin.

Regarding the harm done to the community, we pursue justice. Justice seeks the common good in community. This is related to but not identical with the good of every individual. Strictly speaking, justice is not concerned with the rehabilitation of the sinner, but rather that the common good be preserved. The one who has care of a community is called to work towards the common good – which is the aim of justice. We ought to punish those who harm the common good of society, and reward those that support it.

Far surpassing, though not opposed to justice, is the charity which motivates the action of fraternal correction that Christ describes today. Christ proposes that Charity must be the basis for our actions when we correct another. Charity or love always seeks the good of the other person as other. This becomes the basis for admonishing a brother.

Note the difference here between these two types of corrections: When we fraternally correct – we do not correct in order to punish or to take vengeance or gain satisfaction from another, rather we do so because we know that it is the right thing to do for the other person. Justice in community is important, but fraternal correction is not justice seeking; rather, it seeks the good of the individual who has sinned as a person.

We want him or her to change, not for our sake but for their own sake – the way that Jesus wants Peter to change not for his sake but for Peter’s sake. The way that Jesus wants you and I to change, not for his sake but for our own good.

This is what it means to “win your brother over.” The goal of fraternal correction is to win the brother – to bring him back into communion with Christ. Remember the prodigal son – the older brother should have been looking for the younger, to bring him back to the Father.

Therefore it is a serious duty for us admonish the sinner. In fact, St. Augustine, reminds us, “If thou shalt neglect this, thou art worse than he. He hath done an injury, and by doing an injury, hath stricken himself with a grievous wound; wilt thou disregard thy brother’s wound? Wilt thou see him perishing, or already lost, and disregard his case? Thou art worse in keeping silence, than he in his reviling. Therefore when any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound. Therefore “rebuke him between thee and him alone,” intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.”[1]

Yet, we are certainly not obliged to correct every person in the world – that would be impossible. There is a certain prudence to the statement that we should mind our own business. We are not called to be the watchdog of other’s behaviors that do not concern us. St. Thomas, summarizing the thought of St. Augustine writes of the danger of becoming too concerned with the negative behavior of others, “else we should become spies on the lives of others, which is against the saying of Prov. 24:15: Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest.”[2]

My brothers and I on Travis’s wedding day! There was a lot of correction going on going on growing up.

Who then does Christ call us to correct in their sins? St. Augustine tells us, to care for our brothers and sisters, “by correcting what we see,” that is what we know with moral certainty to be harmful to another person’s salvation. Practically speaking this means that we should not go looking for people to correct. Moreover, the wisdom of the saints is that in others we ought to assume their good intentions until we are proven otherwise.

We should also only correct those whom we sincerely believe it will have a positive impact upon. Even if a person has harmed us, it does no good to correct someone if they are unable to hear our correction. If we are likely to be misunderstood, or the person is not in a state of mind to receive the correction we are better off delaying it.    

If it is truly the case, that we wish to correct out of charity, and we believe it is possible that it would be well received, how should we correct? This is one place where the Lord gives us a practical plan right in the scriptures. Go to the brother or sister who has offended you to speak to them one-on-one if possible. We too easily turn to gossip which solves nothing. The Lord knows the psychology of the human person. We get defensive if we feel threatened – no one likes to hear they did something wrong much less be publicly accused of it. Remember in fraternal correction you desire the good of the person.

If they persist in sin, seek counsel and help from witnesses – namely people the person you are trying to help, trusts and respects.If they still refuse to listen, “Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren. But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected. For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.”[3]

Remember the point of this whole thing is to win your brother or sister back to the faith. To help them come to salvation. Is this difficult, yes? Is it worth it, yes! To guide a brother or sister back to the Father’s house. This is a great act of charity, an act of charity which mirrors Christ’s own charity toward us.

Questions for us to ponder:

  1. Have I given into the relativism of our cultural situation?
  2. When it is necessary to correct another how well does my approach align with Jesus’s call to charitable fraternal correction?
  3. Do I shy away too much from conflict when I should speak to a brother or sister? Or do I, on the other hand, concern myself with things that are not my business to correct? What am I doing to work to foster charity?
  4. Do I engage in gossip, either in person or online? If so what am I doing to overcome this sin in my life?  

Today’s readings can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090620.cfm

You can subscribe to future audio versions of homilies here: https://frwill.fireside.fm/

(23th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite)


[1] Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. R. G. MacMullen, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 359.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.). STh., II-II q.33 a.2 ad 4

[3] Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. R. G. MacMullen, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 359.

Published by Fr. Will Rooney

Fr. Will Rooney was baptized at St. Anthony’s Parish in Bryan, TX where his parents had been married. He has two younger brothers, David and Travis. Will received his First Communion at St. Anthony’s and around that time began to think about becoming a priest. Will was confirmed at St. Thomas Aquinas in May 2006. During high school, he actively participated in the parish youth group and was involved in robotics competitions. He and his brothers also raised poultry for 4-H and FFA projects. Upon graduation from A&M Consolidated High School in 2009, Will studied Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University. While at A&M, he worked as a Middle School youth minister and felt a growing desire toward the priesthood. In his senior year at A&M, he decided to apply for seminary, was accepted, and began attending Holy Trinity Seminary for pre-theology after he graduated. Two years later, Will was sent to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston for theological studies. He served his pastoral year at St. Louis, King of France, Catholic Church and School in Austin (2017-2018). He was ordained to the Diaconate May 18, 2019, and served his deacon year at Our Lady of the Visitation in Lockhart, TX. He was ordained to the priesthood June 27, 2020 currently ministers at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin.

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