Pope Francis has been preaching about God’s extravagant mercy. He proclaimed 2016 the Year of Mercy. In his book, titled The Name of God Is Mercy, he said that Mercy is the very essence of God.
Jesus hang out with questionable people. And so does Pope Francis.
When he went to the United States, the Pope called up one of his former students, Yayo Grassi, someone who he knew has been a practising homosexual for a long time. The Pope asked Yayo if they could visit each other. He said he just wanted to give him a hug. And that meeting happened. Yayo brought his partner with him and the Pope received them warmly.
When someone asked him about homosexuality, he shocked the world by focusing on love. He said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”
At another time, on this same question, he replied: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
By the way, the Pope is not changing doctrines. He still believes that a sexual relationship between the same gender is sin. But he’s asking, “May we disagree and still be friends?”
What Are You Known for?
A few years ago, someone wrote to me:
“Brother Bo, whenever I hear you preach at The Feast, you don’t preach against abortion, homosexuality, and other grievous sins. Especially now that congress is passing the RH Bill, you need to make a stand.”
I wrote back:
“I am Catholic. So I stand by what my Church believes in all these matters. And yes, I’ve taught about these things at different times. But I don’t talk about them every time I open my mouth. Because God gave me a special assignment. My call is to reach out to people who are no longer attending church, who are no longer religious, who don’t find Church relevant in their life, who feel angry at the Church, who feel uncomfortable in a church, and especially those who feel rejected by the Church.”
I was surprised when Pope Francis was asked the same question. A journalist asked him, “Why don’t you speak against abortion and gay marriage more often?”
He gave a similar answer, but 1,000x better. He said:
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time… The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Sad Fact: When secular people were surveyed about the Church, they said, “The Church is more known for what it is against rather than what it is for.”
We’re known for being against this, and that, and this, and that… This is not the Forgiving Father. This is the Better Brother, telling the world, “I’m better than you are!”
I want to be the Forgiving Father, not the Better Brother.
If there was one thing that Jesus was against, it was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.
But to the sinners, Jesus was their friend. He ate with prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, and drunkards.
He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come not to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Yes, this is our mission in our community, The Feast and Light of Jesus Family. But I believe this is the mission of the entire Catholic Church.
We want to welcome everyone.
I love telling my audience, “Just come as you are. With your sins. Mistakes. Wounds. Failures. Brokenness. Our role isn’t to change you (Only God can do that). Our role is to love you.”
One day, a young woman came up to me. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “Brother Bo, I’m a sinner. I’m in a relationship with a married man. And I don’t have the strength to give him up yet. Will you accept me in your community?”
I embraced her and said, “You’re welcome. Don’t just join us. Serve in a ministry. Be part of our small groups.”
Three years later, she came up to me again. With a big smile, she said, “I did it! I was able to leave him.”
Imagine if I rejected her the first time I met her. Imagine if I said, “I’m sorry, you’re in adultery. We’re a prayer meeting. This is a holy place. When you’ve gotten rid of that sin in your life, please come back…”
If I did that, where would she go?
Let me end with two big questions for you…
First Big Question
Friend, ask yourself: How do you deal with people who are sinners —like yourself?
When you deal with your uncle who has two wives, or your officemate who is “living in” with her boyfriend, or that guy in the gym who is a practising homosexual—how do you relate with them? Are you like Pope Francis, who offers friendship and a hug?
Second Big Question
Pope Francis loves to say, “I’m a sinner in need of God’s mercy.” He proclaimed a Year of Mercy because like everyone else, he needed it.
My second big question: Do you need God’s mercy today?
If the answer is yes, get ready.
Because God will do a 100-meter dash towards you and embrace you.
*Credited to Bo Sanchez, Messy Church for Messy People