Of all the ways we are called to look after one another, speaking the truth to one another is the most difficult. Some may say that this comes easier to some than others, but this sometimes misses an important aspect, namely effectiveness. Sometimes people have no apprehension in speaking the truth, but make no effort in finding the right time or way to do it, and the truth is then seldom heeded. Speaking the truth, in the long run, must not about us or for us, but for the benefit of those who need it.
Today God tells us through the Prophet Ezekiel that we are guilty when we fail to speak the truth, but saved by speaking the truth even when it falls on deaf ears. In our Gospel passage, Jesus invites us deeper. He asks us to not only speak the truth to those who have strayed, but also enlist the help of others and even the Church when the truth isn’t heeded. Note that He doesn’t say we are guilty if our extra efforts aren’t heeded; He is asking us to go further out of love.
This love, as St. Paul says, is the fulfillment of the Law. We are to love one another as ourselves, as much as we wish to be loved by others. Thus, we ought to act as if it were ourselves who had strayed. And so, we must ask ourselves about the times when someone loved us enough to tell us the truth, to set us on the right path. And we must also ask ourselves about the lessons we had to learn the hard way, when we wish someone had gotten through to us.
So maybe we shouldn’t ask ourselves about the timing or method of speaking the truth to someone. Perhaps we should first ask ourselves if we are acting out of love for our neighbor, or our desire to speak the truth for our own good. Speaking the truth to save ourselves is sufficient, but Christ is calling us to something much deeper.