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A sermon on the Synod

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Fr. Mike Paraniuk

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro)
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield)
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union)

The entire interior of St. Mary Catholic Church in Hillsboro was repainted in 2006. Seven new colors covered over the old gray plaster-cracked walls. The colors were added in sequence, first one color and then another. 

I locked the church until the painting was finished. If anyone saw the remodeling before it was complete, they would get a false picture. But people sneaked in anyway. They complained loudly and often. 

When the pink colors were painted, an elderly parishioner took one look at it and declared, "St. Mary Church looks like a nursery for a newborn baby girl."

I implored the people, "Don't judge the repainting until it's finished." 

When that day came, the doors were open. People were in awe of its beauty. The one who made the nursery remark said to me, "I have been here all my life. I have never seen the church look so good." 

Pope Francis is presiding over this huge meeting of 464 church leaders around the world. They are listening and discussing how the Catholic Church can be a "medicine of mercy rather than of severity" (Pope St. John XXIII), one that "blesses and encourages, that helps those who seek the Lord" (Pope Francis I).

They are wrestling with how the Church can reach out with mercy to those who do not follow Church teaching. Specifically, how can the Church be more welcoming to gays who seek Jesus but are doing acts the Church says are sinful. 

I believe the Pope is solving this problem by separating the person from the sin. The Pope would bless the soul, but not the act. Church teaching about same sex acts is not changing. Pope Francis this year was quoted as saying, "It is not a crime. But yes, it is a sin."  

There is no way the Church will bless same sex marriage nor same sex unions. The Pope is not saying that at all, despite the false hype from the media. The Church cannot bless sin. But Pope Francis recognizes that gay people are also children of God whom He loves. He said, “We cannot be judges who only deny, push back and exclude." The mercy of God is offered to all. 

The Pope's approach of blessing the person but not the sin is not new. Jesus, the Lord Himself, did this frequently. The greatest example is what happened at His crucifixion. The "good" thief was not good at all. He was a murderer who killed innocent people, maybe even children, as a way to rob them. Jesus looked at this horrible person and declared, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43.) Jesus saw something in this robber's soul that merited paradise, despite his many heinous acts. 

Right after Jesus called Matthew, He dined at Matthew's house. Matthew 9:10-13 says, "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Here we see Jesus blessing with mercy these persons rejected by society by dining with them. He did not exclude them, deny them, or reject them despite knowing they will probably sin again. The tax collectors did not give up their lucrative jobs after this dinner, but God Jesus reached out to them anyways. 

Pope Francis is urging the faithful to calm down. The purpose of the Synod is not to change Church teaching on marriage or allow blessings on gay unions. They are trying to formulate a "theology of love" which is inclusive not exclusive, which is accepting not rejecting. It's sad that when gays are put down in the world, they come to the Church for solace, and then Church leaders puts them down some more like the Pharisees did with sinners in their day. 

The Church exists as a "Hospital for Wounded Souls" not a "Museum of Hallowed Saints." I close with this beautiful depiction of God's Mercy from St. Faustina: "One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.” 

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