18 May 2008

Love each other by Rebecca Sultana (Times of Malta, 18 May 2008)

Following Jaqueline Calleja's letter about 'Gay Catholics' (The Sunday Times, May 11), she should know that Christ's stay on earth was so special and unique because of his exemplary life. His unconditional love and compassion reached out to all. He was concerned about people's suffering and was particularly sensitive towards those who were ostracised.

However, Christ also strongly opposed people like the Scribes and the Pharisees who, while considering themselves virtuous, abused the Scriptures to impose suffering on others and point fingers.

Christ understood and sympathised with human frailty; however he had a strong aversion to people being self-righteous, people exercising power and control through dogmatic law, and who made life more difficult and unbearable for the poor, needy and oppressed. And, I strongly believe that people who incite gay hatred while calling themselves Catholics would not be among Christ's favourite people.

Sometimes it feels that the more people become ingrained in institutionalised religion, the more they lose the ability to love.

When the interpretation of the Gospel hardens into doctrine, it often hardens people's hearts. This has happened many times throughout the history of Christianity. There were instances when fundamentalist followers became so blinded that, while they were committing the most cruel acts of wickedness, they believed they were doing God service.

When our hearts are hardened, we cannot feel the pulse of the suffering individual. Hard hearts cannot strengthen and inspire religious faith in others either.

Christ came to soften people's hearts by his love, to liberate humankind from the chains of a rigid legalistic doctrine. He was a revolutionary man who taught us to love the people society tells us not to love; and to refuse to go along with a culture of hating those we do not understand.

During the Last Supper, Christ gave the last commandment, "that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:34-35).

Catholics' discipleship is measured not by their ardour to mould people to their sanctimonious will, but by their willingness to take up the challenge of loving unconditionally and living by the high standards this challenge sets.

Let us not mistake true religion for bitter and ferocious zeal.

Love and let love, Ms Calleja. Christ's life, passion and death would have been in vain if we didn't follow in His footsteps and learn to love as He did.

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