Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner

Clergy Corner by Fr. Ray

It is true that we have to “hate sin but love the sinner,” for, after all, we have to follow the example of our Merciful God. It is true that we must not judge anybody, for we are all sinners. This is what the parable of the wheat and the weeds clearly points out. We have no right to pull out the weeds from the field, but instead wait for harvest time when the Eternal Judge will order His angels to separate the weeds from the wheat. It is true that people who may be considered weeds can, at a later time, become wheat as well, through the grace of repentance and a genuine conversion. It is true that in each one of us, there are weeds and wheat, and so we still need God’s mercy and kindness. However, in the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus makes it very clear that besides the hope and assurance of heaven, there is also the frightening reality of hell: "They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth" (Mt. 13:42). Definitely, this is a terrifying image. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states the doctrine of hell: It is the “state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed...” The keyword here is “self-exclusion.” The image of a God who mercilessly throws down an unrepentant sinner to hell is not accurate. Rather, the sinner, by his free choice has rejected God, and thereby willfully excluded himself from the relationship and communion with God. Hell, therefore, is self-exclusion. It is the person’s free choice.                                
The parable of the wheat and the weeds is not meant to scare us and drive us into a panic. Rather, it is still Good News for all of us for several important reasons. First, it reminds us that it is God who will ultimately judge us in the end. Today’s first reading declares, "For your might is the source of righteousness; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all" (Wis.12:18). Second, it proclaims the truth of God’s universal love for all people, both the good and the bad, for He allows the wheat and the weeds to grow together until harvest and "He makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Mt.5:45). And third, it reveals God’s boundless mercy for us sinners, giving us all the time and opportunity to reform our lives and be saved. Through the prophet Ezekiel, he declares, "For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies—oracle of the Lord God. Turn back and live" (Ez.18:32). 

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