We humans love heroes—people who excel in sports like the Olympians, music like rock stars, politics like senators and presidential candidates, acting like movie stars, and in other endeavors. We not only look up to them, but they serve as models for us. They inspire us to be better. How disappointing and depressing it is to discover that our idols have flaws and sometimes even serious faults. The news is glutted with stories of famous people who acted infamously today and in the past. So how do we deal with these sad turns of events? For one thing, we shouldn’t be surprised. There is a saying that idols have clay feet. This adage is derived from an Old Testament story of the king of Babylon’s dream in which a statue of gold, silver, bronze, and iron had feet of clay. The prophet Daniel said that the dream symbolized that the powerful nation would be destroyed. We are all children of Adam, who, according to Genesis, was created out of clay. We are all prone to stumble and fall on our clay feet. No one is perfect.
Everyone has done things to regret: mistakes, wrong choices, foolish acts. We wish we could go back and redo certain days in our lives. Luckily, we are not so popular that our faults are paraded across the media for all the world to observe. Since we are made of the same clay, we can regard public sinners with sympathy, if not empathy.
Jesus, the sinless One, befriended sinners. In the first place, he came to earth where he rubbed shoulders with all of us sinners. He was accused of eating with them, a factor in his death sentence. The Gospels offer us touching stories of Jesus mingling with “bad people.” He invited himself to house of Zacchaeus, a greedy tax collector, for dinner. He ate at the house of Simon, the Pharisee. He let the adulterous woman go free. He healed sinners’ bodies. He set up as a model the sinful woman who crashed a dinner party and cried at his feet. The twelve men he chose to accompany him were not all paragons of virtue.
Jesus described his mission as being sent for sinners. He lived and died for them. As his followers who strive to live as he did, shouldn’t we have a heart for the weak among us? That is why Christians engage in prison ministry. After all, one of the works of mercy is to visit the imprisoned. In particular, Jesus encouraged us to forgive those who sin against us—no less than seventy-seven times, in other words, each and every time. And we are to pray for sinners, hoping that they are praying for us too!
I just came across these words of Pope Francis: “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God”
What is your favorite story about Jesus showing mercy to a sinner?