There has always been two views of the Church; one exclusive, the other inclusive. The exclusive view holds that the Church is for good people, for the fully committed. In the inclusive view, the Church must be open to all, to the hot, the cold, and the lukewarm, to saints and sinners.
Some folks think that the presence of sinners in the Church is a cause for scandal. If they had their way, only those who are living holy, upright lives would be welcome.
The issue of sinners in the Church was a big one for the early Christian Community. Some were in favor of weeding sinners out and others looked to the example of Jesus for inspiration and guidance.
Jesus did not exclude sinners but welcomed them. He, himself, said that he had come for sinners, not the righteous, calling sinners to repentance and a change of heart. The parable about the field in which wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest was a response to this very question.
We human beings are very complex creatures. We cannot be divided into good and bad, as though we are two distinctly separate groups of people. There is no line you can draw which would neatly separate the good from the bad, as there is good and evil in each and every human heart! No exceptions to this!!!
So what should we do? As far as we are concerned, the best thing we can do is take a good look into our own field. If we find some weeds there, and no doubt whatsoever that we will, there is no law against trying to pull them out. If we make an effort to do so, we will find that this is a painful process. The very process Jesus is calling us to: repentance and a change of heart.
When it comes to others, we should treat them as Jesus treated sinners. Isn’t it strange that Jesus, who had no trace of weed in him could be so compassionate and understanding of those who were sinners? Why didn’t he weed out Judas Iscariot? Or Peter? Or the others who abandoned him in his greatest hour of need?
We, the Church, can do no better than imitate the Master. The Church must be big enough and loving enough to hold sinners in the fold. If it did not do so, it would not be the Church Jesus formed.
A Church that admitted only saints would make about as much sense as a hospital that admitted only healthy people. As Pope Francis has told us, the Church is a field hospital that tends to the needs of weak, frail, sinful human beings.
The Church is a temple with many gates, and pilgrims enter from every angle. Through each door, and from all kinds of paths, we enter the House of God on Sunday. Ours is not a Church for those who feel good, but for those who know they are not.
God is much more tolerant then we are, and for this we should be eternally grateful. If God were not, who of us would make it into the heavenly Kingdom? While we must distinguish between good and evil, we must work at being as understanding and compassionate as God. The time for judgment is not yet. The Kingdom of God is still growing in our midst. Now is the time for repentance and conversion. People can change, people do change!
— Father Dennis, July 23, 2017