I used to be naughty as I was growing up. I would tease my young siblings especially my sister to the point of making her angry; many times to the point of tears. She even ran after me with a table fork! I had the liberty to do this because my parents were away. At home, we only had our helper who was also a distant relative to manage the house. But I was beyond her control. At any hint of trouble, I was the culprit.
When dad arrived, my sister would immediately report all my trouble making at home. At first, my dad would call me and advise me to be more kind and respectful. But after several warnings and futile efforts to correct me, he was forced to execute disciplinary measures. I remember my dad spanking me several times. I resented him for that. On hindsight, I realize what my dad did was right. He had the duty to correct me. I believe, I am a better person today because of those “spankings.” Today I understand better that he did what he should do because he truly cared for me.
Our Sunday Gospel (Mt18:15-20) reminds us of our Christian commitment to take care of each other. In the family, it is the parents’ duty to teach and demonstrate to their children Christian values and virtues. These are reinforced in the school community by the teachers and educators. Robert Fulghum, author of the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” enumerates basic lessons he learned “not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.”
Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die; so we do.
Don’t hit people and saying I’m sorry are basic things in life. They are rudimentary values that bring nobility in the world. They put order in our society and they are the bedrock of a respectful community. When a child forgets all these things, the father or the mother usually repeats the lesson. The child is told. The “spanking” may be necessary as a deterrent. Today, the spanking may not be physical. The principle is to win over the child to learn the lesson of respect and give value the person. The teacher does the same in school.
But when the wrong doing happens in society, who does the correcting? Who teaches the lessons of fair play in order to moderate greed? Israel had a tradition of rightful living. God instituted it by giving them a set of rules as guidelines for their actions. It became a requirement of the covenant for God to make of them a wise people with a noble heritage. Through the years when the people of Israel would forget the demands of the covenant, the prophets were there to remind them.
Prophet Amos, for instance, was just a simple farmer. He lived at a time in Israel when business had never been better. Merchants piled up big profits and luxuries like stone houses, ivory-inlaid furniture, good food and fine wine were readily available. There was peace and prosperity. Yet beyond such surface was a dark side that slowly disintegrated Israelite society. There was oppression of the poor, dishonesty in business, bribery in court, privileges bought with money. Worst of all, God became a mere additive to a convenient lifestyle. God called Amos to leave his job and carry an unwelcomed message to his people.
The Church has a prophetic role today like that of Amos. It is her role to challenge each disciple to be a shepherd to each other. She reminds everyone that one must care for each other as brother or sister. Love requires a commitment to bring a strayed brother or sister on the right path. Hence, we all have the duty to correct each other out of love. It is difficult became the messenger of the message is also targeted.
The Church has the duty to correct like a mother. She is to be the social conscience of society in order to remind and repeat the fundamental lessons we learned as children: Play fair. Don’t hit people. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hit somebody. It is the way to go for a better society that promotes love, respect and forgiveness.
This article appears in Fr. Randy’s Column “Sharing the Word,” Faith Section of Cebu Daily News, September 10, 2017.