Fraternizing with sinners PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 March 2016 11:35

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

That’s what Christ did, even to the extent of ruffling the sentiments of some people who considered themselves to be without sin.

For example, he chose Matthew, a tax-collector, another name for big sinner at that time, as one of the apostles. He dined with Zaccheus, another rich man regarded also as sinner at that time.

Fraternizing with sinners is what we all have to cultivatein ourselves also. We have to replicate Christ’s attitude towards sinners, who actually are all of us—of course, in varying degrees. We have to give special attention to the lost sheep and to the lost coin.

We have to open all possible avenues to be in touch with all sinners.

This capacity to fraternize with sinners is first of all a

gift from God which we have to take care of and develop. It’s meant to mature us and to involve us in the continuing work of redemption of Christ. It’s not meant, of course, to dilute the teachings of Christ and the very essence of goodness and true holiness.

We need to train ourselves in this department because we obviously have to contend with tremendous difficulties that we have to learn to surmount. We will always have our biases and preferences and other natural and human conditionings that, if not handled well, can  be divisive elements in our life.

But if we closely follow Christ, if we pray and let ourselves be led by our faith more than by our feelings, we can manage to consider everyone worthy of our attention, concern and love. Even those who, from under different criteria and standards, we consider as sinners, enemies, unlovable, etc., can command our care.

So, we just have to learn how to be sport and game with everyone without compromising the rules of the game, so to speak. Foul is foul, cheating is cheating, and the appropriate penalties should be given, but the game has to go on.

Just the same, we have to be ready to get dirty. There is actually no game where the sportsman does not get dirty or does notexperience extreme tensions and suspense.

In this regard, we have to realize more deeply that we need to be strong and flexible ourselves. Thus, we have to undergo continuing formation, just like those good athletes who never fail to practice daily and to go through endless training exercises.

The world is getting more complex and complicated which, in the eyes of a true Christian believer, can only mean that things are getting more challenging and exciting. One never gives up before this prospect, chickening out easily.

In fact, he would feel more stimulated to get involved, knowing that whatever be the outcome, God’s providence will always prevail. He knows perfectly well that all this spiritual and apostolic game is not only his to play, but God’s, first of all.

We have to train ourselves to be “all things to all men,” as St. Paul once said. (1 Cor 9,19) We can always do this everyday by taking advantage of every opportunity we have to adapt ourselves to everyone as he is and to every situation that can come our way.

We can always count on God’s grace for this. And even if we are conditioned by so many things like our temperament, our personal and family backgrounds and orientations, our cultural and social environments, let’s never forget that we have a spiritual soul that can always transcend the limitations of all these conditionings.

We have to take the initiative to love everyone, regardless of whether they ‘deserve’ to be loved or not. In fact, we have to give special attention, like what Christ did, to those who seem far from God—the atheists, agnostics, heretics, etc. These are the ultimate “poor and marginalized” or the real “least of our brethren,” even if they may appear rich, powerful and famous according to human standards.

Obviously, in all this, we have to practice a certain prudence and discretion. In the first place, because we have to adequately protect ourselves. And secondly, because we have to avoid possible scandals, whether real or false, true or pharisaical, in others, especially those who are still like children in the faith.

Even with those who are self-righteous, we should try our best not to scandalize them unduly. But since we are told that we cannot avoid scandals in the world, we should try our best to neutralize them as quickly as possible through the appropriate means, always giving clarifications of our motives and of our means.

But the game of fraternizing with sinners has to go on!