Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

All Are Welcome

One of the responsibilities of the fourth year Deacon class is that we write weekly reflections on the Sunday Readings for the Archdiocesan Catholic Spirit. The page with the last several weeks' reflections is here. I post here my reflection which is published in this week's Catholic Spirit.

All throughout the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday, we hear of the duty to confront a sinner for his sins. Often, this can seem a daunting duty. It is not easy to bring up a “touchy subject,” particularly when it involves sin. Yet, this is the duty given to us in our readings.

But if it is a duty, that changes everything. Duties — real duties — are always given by God, often through his church. They are opportunities to fulfill the greatest commandment to love God and the second greatest about which St. Paul reminds us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

As such, the task to be done is transformed. First of all, it is elevated by the fact that it is not only our will at work. If it is a duty, it is also a call (as is evident from Ezekiel), and therefore the task to be accomplished will not be achieved by human work alone.

Rather, as we pray about the situation and begin to “warn them for me,” as the Lord says, God will supply his grace, not only giving us the wisdom of what to say and how to say it, but also softening the heart of the sinner.

The task is also transformed in that we are not solely responsible for the result. If we are diligent and accomplish the task in accordance with God’s will, the result is left to his providence. We can only do that which lies in our power.

We present that which we know to be objectively true, neither exaggerating nor minimizing. We speak sincerely from the heart about the real harm caused, but we do not get carried away rubbing salt in an open wound. Then, we allow the sinner his freedom and relate to him accordingly.

If he wishes to “turn from his way,” thanks be to God! We can begin repairing the damage done. The sinner makes restitution; those harmed will undoubtedly respond with mercy. Relational bridges can be rebuilt.

But if he “hardens his heart,” we do not ignore the real harm done. “He shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” (Ezekiel 33:9). We repair what can be repaired, yet acknowledge the barrier he has set up in the web of relationships that exist — we interact with him differently.

The notion of salt and wounds is important here, too. Sin causes a wound that will fester until healed by reconciliation (sacramental and restitutional).

As the church — wholly and individually — we always extend the olive branch of true peace. With arms wide open, we wait to welcome, as all are welcome, provided the sinner’s heart not be hardened and church and penitent can fully agree.

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