That gospel episode about a sinful woman barging into a party where Christ was and proceeding to wash Christ’s feet with ointment (cfr. Lk 7,36-50) shows us that Christ loves everyone, including those who are in very sinful situations, without of course condoning what is evil and sinful.
That woman provoked some critical thoughts on the part of the host against Christ. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
Christ, of course, who could read people’s mind responded by teaching him—and us—that precious lesson that we have to care and love everyone, irrespective of who and how they are, without blurring the distinction between good and evil, moral and immoral.
In fact, like Christ we should have some kind of preferential concern for those who are in error or are lost spiritually and morally. This Christian attitude can be adduced from the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep. Christ fraternized more with the sinners, precisely because he came not to condemn the world but to save.
Fraternizing with sinners is what we all have to cultivate in ourselves also. We have to replicate Christ’s attitude towards sinners, who actually are all of us—of course, in varying degrees. We have to give special attention to the lost sheep and to the lost coin. We have to open all possible avenues to be in touch with all sinners.
This capacity to fraternize with sinners is first of all a gift from God which we have to take care of and develop. It’s meant to mature us and to involve us in the continuing work of redemption of Christ. It’s not meant, of course, to dilute the teachings of Christ and the very essence of goodness and true holiness.
We need to train ourselves in this department because we obviously have to contend with tremendous difficulties that we have to learn to surmount. We will always have our biases and preferences and other natural and human conditionings that, if not handled well, can be divisive elements in our life.
But if we closely follow Christ, if we pray and let ourselves be led by our faith more than by our feelings, we can manage to consider everyone worthy of our attention, concern and love. Even those who, from under different criteria and standards, we consider as sinners, enemies, unlovable, etc., can command our care.
So, we just have to learn how to be sport and game with everyone without compromising the rules of the game, so to speak. Foul is foul, cheating is cheating, and the appropriate penalties should be given, but the game has to go on.
To be realistic about the concrete conditions of our life here on earth, we need to know how to be tolerant of certain unavoidable evils without condoning them. The distinction may be difficult to make, but we simply have to learn it if we want to survive the drama of our earthly life. I believe this is a basic skill we all have to acquire, given the way we and the world are.
We have to learn to be tough and be ready to get dirty somehow without surrendering the essential. And we should not lose the hope of overcoming evil, fighting it out till the end of our life, if needed.*