• Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Peace and well-being to you as we prepare to enter the Holy Season of Lent. We will journey from the ashes to the cross and when we reach the end, we will be ready to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His victory over sin. As we take this blessed journey, when we are called to confront our own sinfulness so that we can then draw nearer to God, let us take a closer look at how the Lord addressed those in sin during his earthly ministry.

We are living in a time of great division and judgementalism, so this is a good moment to remember that Jesus came to call sinners, not to condemn them. He did not distance himself from sin, His point was to get into the center of sin. Only by doing this, with the greatest love and self-giving, was conversion and healing of sinfulness able to take place. Believe it or not, you and I are called to that same depth of love and commitment to our brothers and sisters who are in sin, and they are to us.

You could say that the Gospels are filled with these “situations of sin,” where Jesus takes it upon Himself to approach people who have been ostracized and condemned for their sinful behavior. Take the Samaritan woman at the well in John’s Gospel (Jn. 4:4-42). He approaches her with a humble request for a drink of water. A conversation ensues in which Jesus opens her eyes to the promise of God’s salvation in His “living water.” He offers her a vision of hope and He makes her feel that she is worthy of it. Only after this does he name her sin. Then there is the Lord’s encounter in Luke’s Gospel with Zacchaeus (Lk. 19: 1-10), a despised tax collector. In a crowded scene Jesus singles out the diminutive Zacchaeus who seeks Him and makes another humble request – to stay at his house. There is no admonishment of Zacchaeus for his sins, but we soon see the conversion of the tax collector as he pledges to give half of his possessions to the poor. At the conclusion of the Gospel passage Jesus says, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” That, to me, is a beautifully clear way that Jesus explains why He devotes so much of Himself to encounter with those in sin.

There is another important Gospel story where Jesus teaches us about our judgement of sinners. Once again in John’s Gospel (Jn. 8: 1-11), Jesus is presented with a woman who has been caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees who are with him assert that, according to the law of Moses, she should be condemned to death by stoning. The Lord responds by asking them to first look at their own sinfulness, and “they went away one by one” in this realization. Then He addresses the woman with two very important phrases: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more.”

In this final remark, Jesus teaches us that He does not reach out to sinners in order to condemn them, but he also makes clear that He does not condone their sin. Indeed, he calls sinners repentance and to conversion. Make no mistake, once Jesus comes to you, he is asking you to change your life.

When it comes to our treatment of some ostracized groups today, some of our brothers and sisters unfortunately seem to take the approach of the scribes and Pharisees in John’s Gospel – beginning with condemnation and leaving no room for encounter and reconciliation. Much has been made recently about the Vatican document released in December that encourages pastoral blessings for individuals or couples who seek them, even if they are in irregular situations, such as a same sex relationship. Some have expressed great concern that for a minister of the Church to offer a blessing to a same sex couple, even if it is informal and has no liturgical environment (as the document stipulates), is an endorsement of sin. I believe that for a Church minister to offer a blessing to a person (or a couple) who seek God’s help to make their lives better is to follow the model of Jesus when he offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well. It is to open the door for that person to know God and His will in their life. If we begin with a stone in our hand that door remains closed.

Please be assured of my prayers for you on your Lenten journey this year and I ask that you pray for me, too. Lent is a time that God gives us to connect with the virtue of humility. Let us acknowledge how much we need God in our lives, to walk with us and to show us what we are sometimes unable to see, ourselves.

May God bless you and your loved ones.

In Christ’s compassion and mercy,
Bishop Rojas