God looks at the heart
Six years ago, a friend of mine came out of the closet, freeing himself from a long-term fear of rejection by family and friends. But one fear remained.
He knew that while it respects homosexuals, the Catholic Church prohibits homosexual relations. How would God react once my friend falls in love, has sex, and engages in a committed homosexual relationship? My friend feared God would reject him.
So I asked my friend, “How did your mother react when you told her you're gay?”
His mother fell silent, my friend said. “She cried. Then she hugged me tight.” Eventually, his mother would thank my friend's boyfriend for making her son happy.
I shot back: “Do you think God, unlike your mother, will condemn you?” I recalled that in the book of Isaiah, the Lord promises he loves us infinitely more than our mothers do (Is 49:15).
God doesn't quickly condemn but looks at the heart.
The bottom line is love. Unlike legalistic people, God looks beyond Church rules when genuine, committed, and fruitful love is involved. Two thousand years ago, Jesus himself broke some rules of the Jewish religion to prove this point.
Judging eye vs listening ear
The challenge for the Church is to follow God's example: to address moral questions not with a judging eye, but with a listening ear.
The Church “must accept just how complex are the choices that people face in the modern world,” writes Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former head of the Dominican order, in his book, "What is the Point of Being a Christian?"
“Christians in their moral lives are faced with tough choices for which the Church's teaching may not have clear and easy answers,” Radcliffe says. “If someone is divorced and they meet someone they love, then should they marry again or not? If someone is gay, then must their lives always be lived alone?”
“Because it is frightening to have to think our way through these issues, pray about them, study them in the light of the teaching of the Gospels and the Church, then the temptation is either to do what one likes, or for the Church to snatch at a quick answer,” he says.
Radcliffe says the Church “will only be a cradle of Gospel freedom if we are seen to stand beside people, supporting them as they make moral decisions within the range of what is possible, rather than making decisions for them.”
The Philippines' beloved prelate, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, and the newly elected Pope Francis echo this call.
Tagle warns against a “triumphalist, know-it-all” Church.
“I realized that the sufferings of people, and the difficult questions that they ask, are really invitations for us to, first, be in solidarity with them, not to pretend that we have all the solutions and all the answers,” Tagle says, stressing the importance of a listening Church.
Tagle adds: “They see a concrete face of God in a Church that can just sometimes be silent with them, be as confused as they are, also telling them, 'You know, we share the same situation of confusion and searching.'”
Pope Francis has also criticized a “self-referential Church” that doesn't “come out of herself.”
Jesus, too, broke rules
It is good, for any group, to keep a set of rules. But rules should consider life's complexities – coupled, always, with a listening ear.
The best example comes from Jesus.
On the Sabbath, he enters a synagogue and sees a man with a withered hand. The law prohibits him from healing this man on the Sabbath, but chooses to proceed with his miracle.
He admonishes the Pharisees: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” (Mk 3: 5)
In another instance, his hungry disciples pick the heads of grain on the Sabbath – with their master's consent. Promptly, the Pharisees criticize him for breaking the law again.
Jesus tells the Pharisees: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2: 24, 27).
Jesus loves his people, and love is the commandment that surpasses all rules. This man who broke the rules of his own religion – and eventually shattered death on Easter – gives us infinite hope. – Rappler.com