Our Motivation is Love

September 10, 2017

Sister Helen Prejean, in her book Dead Man Walking, tells the real story of Lloyd LeBlanc, a Roman Catholic layman, whose son was murdered.

When he arrived in the cane field with the sheriff’s deputies to identify his son David’s body, LeBlancimmediately knelt by his boy’s body and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. When he came to the words: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," he realized the depth of the commitment he was making. "Whoever did this, I must forgive them, I resolved," he later told Sr. Prejean.

LeBlanc confessed that it had been difficult not to be overcome by the bitterness and feelings of revengethat welled up from time to time, especially on David’sbirthday. But for the rest of his life, forgiveness was prayed for and struggled for and won. He went to the execution of the culprit Patrick Sonnier, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Before sitting in the electric chair Patrick Sonnier, the murderer said, "Mr. Le Blanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what I did," and Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head, signaling forgiveness he had already given.

When we address God as “Our Father,” we accept that the entire human race is one family in God and we are all brothers and sisters.  Although seemingly simple, this is profoundly important because it is crucial in our daily life of faith.

As brothers and sisters in one family, we have responsibilities towards one another: to love, protect, care, and correct.  For example, if your sister was addicted to drugs, your entire family would intervene to help her.  The intervention is a true show of love.   Without it, the family has already abandoned her. 

This familial intervention comes from love, and its goal is to restore her to wholeness.  It is the responsibility of the family to intervene and to correct, yet the acceptance or rejection is the free will and responsibility of the sister.

Although true that it is not practical and prudent for us to intervene into every aspect of the daily life of a family, spiritually we are responsible for the spiritual well being of everyone.  We are our brother’s keeper. 

Jesus lays out this process for us in today’s Gospel.  He teaches us that it is our collective responsibility to help others spiritually.  He guides us to bring the issue directly to the person (thus preventing gossip), and then offering our help while not imposing, because it’s the responsibility of the other person to accept or reject.  Jesus teaches us that our goal is to reconcile and our motivation is love and forgiveness.       

~ Fr. Ben


Susana Nieto