In God’s mysterious plan of salvation, the transmission of His sacramental grace requires human beings as His conduits, and we all know only too well that often our less than charitable attitudes and mannerisms can spark resentment rather than gratitude in those we are called to serve. It is on this point that some, especially Church critics, fixate. They do not see the grace that God is offering because they allow themselves to be consumed by less than gracious responses from the fragile conduits of grace.
Fallen beings that we are, we all fall short of the charity and welcome that may be demanded at a given moment. But our failures point us to another truth about what “welcome” means: genuine welcome is not easy. It requires sacrifice from the “welcomer,” who, in imitation of our Lord, must give of himself so that the other may receive. Awareness of this reality should prompt forgiveness and a willingness to seek again for anyone who has not received the welcome that he deserved.
During recent debates surrounding the Synod, some voices suggested that the Church could make herself more welcoming by omitting language that describes sin. The preferred groups of the Synod – divorced Catholics and Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction – would be more likely to participate if the Church ceased to remind them of the realities of sin. The drafters of the Synod’s midterm report, bishops and cardinals all, seemingly attempted this very tactic by using what the New York Times deemed “words of welcome and understanding” to address these groups.
But ignoring obvious problems and sins is no welcome at all, and Jesus’ own actions show that “to welcome” is not synonymous with “being allowed to do what one wants.” As Jesus dined with Zacchaeus, the tax collector immediately renounced his sinful ways. As Jesus saved the adulterous woman from stoning, He warned her to sin no more. As Jesus tried to change the ways of the Pharisees – men whose hard hearts needed welcome as much as anyone – He hammered them with insults for their dogged stubbornness. And as Jesus explained that His flesh and blood must be eaten to have eternal life, He did not rescind or modify His teaching after many would-be disciples, having rejected it, walked away.
An excellent read, one that ought to be read in its entirety.
I welcome you to do so.