The sermon from my parish priest which I quoted the other day continues to reverberate in the parish.
That Sunday I had many telephone calls from people, at first those wishing to condemn him, and then more from those who wanted to commend him to the Bishop for telling it like it is. I went to the regular 9 a.m. communion today (I can’t usually as I am at work, but as it is a holiday today, I could) and walked back with several friends. What is clear is that Father’s sermon has hit home. Even some of those who were upset by it have, after thinking about it, seen that he was right.
That set us to thinking over a cup or two of coffee. It is so easy not to say things which you know are going to cause offence. So often people get upset and say things like ‘but that’s not very loving and Christ as all about love.’ Yes, Christ certainly is all about love, but He is also about repentance as the road to true Christian love and unity with God.
If you see someone damaging themselves through sin – and remember, sin is always a choice you make, no one makes you sin – then where is the love in letting them continue and in saying nothing. How is that love? It is collusion, it is weakness and it is not very loving at all. No one likes to be told they are sinful or that what they are doing is sinning; but is it loving to refrain?
Father’s sermon was in the context of the continuing debate about same-sex marriage. He was pointing out that there are many types of sexual activity the Church says is sinful, and that by going on as we do only about homosexuals, we are missing not only two thirds of the sins, but more than two thirds of the sinners. He knows the parish well, and he is probably right if he says that for every one person here who is an active homosexual, there are a dozen who have fornicated or committed adultery, then he is probably right.
He was not upbraiding us, he was asking us to think about our own sins before condemning the sins of others; indeed he was reminding us that we often condemn the sins of others as a way of avoiding talking about our sins; that was why his words hit home. They were true, and we all knew it.
He was telling us, as he said this morning, that whilst gay sex is sinful, so is bigotry and hatred directed at gay people; indeed, so is all bigotry and hatred, including that directed at Christians by their enemies.
Christ’s way, he reminded us, is a hard one, and too hard for us by ourselves. He admitted he’d never quite managed to love those who hated him, and that far from offering the other cheek, he was more likely to offer both fists (he’s 6 foot tall and build like an athlete). He as not proud of that, but it was, he said, like Paul’s affliction – a thorn in his side to remind him of his own imperfections.
In this life we are, none of us, going to reach perfection – but we can all repent and try to do better through the help of Christ.