By Archbishop Craig Bates
* When we decide to live out the command to love, which of course means a life of mercy and forgiveness, we soon discover that we will be misunderstood. This is particularly true when it comes to mercy and forgiveness. Even those within the faith community will suspect that we have either ignored the horror and consequences of sin or we have somehow approved of sinful behavior. On a large scale this was seen this past week when the Bishop of Rome, Francis, spoke to reporters about “judging” homosexual priests. The secular press immediately jumped all over the statement calling it a “watershed” moment in the life of the Church. As if Francis had somehow hanged the entire course of Christian history regarding homosexual behavior. One should not be shocked that priests, and even bishops, have committed sins – and perhaps sexual sins are a part of it. Francis issued a call for mercy, which we should all embrace. That is, if one has sinned, repents of their sins, confesses their sins, and amends their life then indeed who are we to judge their relationship with God? Should we not rejoice that a sinner cries out to God and seeks Him? Do not all of us approach God as sinners in need of the life of grace and mercy? The Bishop of Rome continues to believe the teaching of the Church that homosexual behavior is sinful. And, the Church should embrace sinners with the love, mercy, and the forgiveness of God – whether they are ordained or not. To show mercy is not to approve of sin. To show mercy is to recognize totally the horrible effect of sin not only on the sinner but also on persons around them and indeed the whole culture. It is to acknowledge the terrible consequences of sin and a sinful lifestyle. To show mercy is to recognize the centrality of the cross and the need for the atonement – in fact the cross is the ultimate act of mercy and love towards sinners. It is no wonder that at the beginning of a liturgy we begin with confession and absolution. It is no wonder that the ancient liturgical rites have the Kyrie (Lord have mercy … “) at the beginning of our worship. Calling for mercy not only for us but also for the entire world. The Church does not cry out “Lord bring judgment upon them”. It is no wonder that prior to the breaking of the bread we cry out “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.” To learn that mercy is desired rather than sacrifice will cause us to be misunderstood by society but it is far more important that we are understood by Christ. May our hearts be consumed by the merciful heart of Christ our Lord.
*Reprinted with the kind permission of Archbishop Craig Bates
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