Admonishing sinners – Third Spiritual Work of Mercy
The Works of Mercy through the eyes of a biblical scholar
This morning, 17 July 2023, the two-week meeting will begin, involving friends of Spazio Spadoni from Italy, India, Burkina Faso, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Albania. The Works of Mercy will be discussed; therefore, each day a work will be explored in depth, with the accompaniment of biblical scholar and friend Carlo Miglietta.
The third Work of Spiritual Mercy is “admonishing sinners”
The biblical scholar points out to us that he who performs this work is similar to:
- God: “As a man corrects his son, so the Lord your God corrects you” (Deut 8:5); “Hear, my people, I will admonish you” (Ps 80:9); “You admonish them by reminding them of their sins, so that … they may believe in you, Lord” (Wis 12:2); “Repent and you shall live” (Ez 18:32); “I do not rejoice at the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their wicked ways and live. Repent from your wicked ways!” (Ezek 33:11; cf. 18:30); “The Lord corrects him whom he loves and lashes anyone whom he recognises as a son” (Heb 12:6; cf. Pr 3:12).
- Jesus: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2); “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15); “In his name shall conversion and the forgiveness of sins be preached to all nations” (Lk 24:47).
- The Prophets: Nathan, who admonishes David the murderer and adulterer (2 Sam 12:1-15); Isaiah: “Repent, come!” (Is 21:12); Ezekiel: “Repent, forsake your idols” (Ez 14:6)…
- Tobi: “Repent to him with all your heart and soul” (Tb 13:6, 8).
- John the Baptist: “Bear fruit worthy of conversion…I baptise you with water for conversion” (Mt 3:8.11); “Herod had arrested John…because of Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother. For John said to him: “It is not lawful for you to keep her!” (Mt 14:3-4).
- Paul: “I preached to convert and turn to God, behaving in a manner worthy of conversion” (Acts 26:20).
The biblical scholar also reminds us that he who admonishes sinners hears the Word of God
Below some excerpts:
- “If your brother commits a sin, go and admonish him between you and him alone; if he listens to you, you will have gained your brother” (Mt 18:15).
- “Whoever leads a sinner back from his way of error will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:20).
- “When anyone is caught in any fault, you…correct him with gentleness” (Gal 6:1).
- “If you admonish the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness and perverse conduct, he will die for his sin, but you will be saved” (Ez 3:19).
- “Admonish, rebuke, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine” (2 Tim 4:2).
- “He who has a ministry, let him attend to the ministry…; he who exhorts, to exhortation” (Rom 12:8).
The biblical scholar leaves us at the conclusion of this work with a provocation, a question: do we know how to be “fishers of men” (Mk 1:7), identifying those who admonish sinners and proclaiming the beatitude of mercy that reads “Blessed are the merciful” (Mt 5:7)?
Admonish, act of love
Etymologically, ‘admonish’ comes from Latin:
Ammonire, from ‘ad monere’ meaning to give an admonition, a warning, an exhortation.
In the biblical meaning, the sinner, on the other hand, is the one who misses the mark of his actions, who has a fault.
This Work of Mercy, becomes important when one is dealing with a person who, despite making a mistake, does not realise it but remains convinced that he is doing the right thing, often with catastrophic consequences especially for his own life. Correction must not take the form of judgement but must be translated into a service of care and attention for the lives of others. Three basic ingredients are needed, love, listening to the Word of God to be sure that one has seen the error correctly, and discernment to choose the right words, time and manner.