One of the most difficult Works of Mercy for any of us to perform is to “Admonish the Sinner.” It is very difficult to correct someone, especially when the thing they are doing is morally wrong! Oh, we can correct someone for holding their knife and fork incorrectly, or for chewing with their mouth open, and any number of things that might annoy us, but which really do not matter in the big picture. But to correct someone for their sins? No way!
And yet “admonish the sinner” is held out to us a Spiritual Work of Mercy. Why does Christ and His Church hold this out to us as something that we need to do? Because the immortal soul of my neighbor is very much my concern. Not in the sense that I will have to answer for his/her individual sins, but in the sense that I am not like Cain, who murdered his brother and asked “am I my brother’s keeper?” I am my brother’s keeper — and so I have a duty to help my brothers and sisters to make it to heaven! I can help them to make it to heaven by my prayers, penances/fasting, by acts of charity, and … by correcting them for their sins. And to correct my neighbor in love is not the same as judging that person: after all, I am not judging the person’s soul, but warning him that his actions are wrong, and are destructive to the truth and meaning of who he is meant to be before Almighty God.
Is this an easy thing to do? No way! But if a person can hear it from me, if he or she is able to be open to what I have to say, there are times in which I have a moral duty — a duty before God Himself — to speak up to admonish my neighbor with all charity that what he or she is doing is wrong/sinful/evil, and will not help him on his way to eternal life.
What are some ways that I might use to admonish a sinner?
- “Please do not use the Name of the Lord Jesus in that way.”
- “Do you realize that voting for a pro-abortion politician is a way of being involved/complicit in the evil of abortion?”
- “You need to get some help for your anger problem. If you don’t seek help, you might end up destroying your family.”
- “Your spouse deserves your love and fidelity. That affair that you have been having is not only wrong, but it is destructive to your marriage and your family.”
- “Alcohol is killing you. And do you really want your children to grow up with this image of their father?”
Are there other examples? Absolutely! But the main point is this: if the other person will be able to receive our correction; if we have prayed and asked the Lord Jesus for His help and the assistance of the Holy Spirit; then we need to step out in faith, and as an act of love, speak up to admonish our brothers and sisters who are going astray, so that they can conform their lives to Jesus Christ and come to eternal happiness with Him in heaven!