The Loving Thing To Do

by Fr. Stephen Siniari

Spring/Summer 1999

   She was stunning; movement, face, physique. Eleven boys were in the reception area waiting for their morning assignments when she came in.

   The worker from the other agency handed her case-file to a Resident-Counselor. He opened it and perused her history.

   The kid was already working the room. A sunny morning just got brighter.   Not one young man didn't have a smile on his face. Her fan-club had grown by eleven.

   The agency worker said goodbye, and good luck, and walked out the door.   Before opening the final section of her chart, the medical section, the Counselor looked  up and saw young men, some he'd known, two, three, four years, acting as young men  sometimes do, when they're seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen, making fools of  themselves, laughing, talking loud, trying to impress a healthy, robust-looking young  woman... (He looked at her chart) ...who was HIV positive... (He wanted to cry out) ...No! (Breech her confidentiality?) ...Tell them! (Leave them unprotected?)

   The bottom half of a yellow legal-pad page, stapled, ragged, torn edge, to her chart, signed, in her own handwriting: "I intend to take down with me as many boys as I can..."

   The poor kid... Surely, been fooled and fooled a lot, by older, predatory men.  (His heart broke) Only a baby. Just fourteen.

   Now... You love some of these boys, like your own kids. And God has placed  this young girl, also, in your care. What do you do?

   Sometimes we're confronted with situations that leave us asking, "What is the loving, Christ-like thing to do?" Some rush forward with answers. But those who've been around the block once or twice aren't quite so quick to reply. Each situation may have its own special nuance, its own subtle sub-set of qualities that resist the ouchless application of "flesh-colored" band-aids that have yet to find a finger or a flesh-tone to which they effectively conform.

   Life isn't simple. Each new moral crisis pollinates the air with hybrid attitudes and ideas germinated in pathologies and psychologies, anthropologies and sterile theologies that never take root or grow into anything substantive. What was true and efficacious yesterday... The once definitive pages of our policy and procedure manuals are tested, torn-out, scribbled over, and frayed around the edge 'til the Resident-Counselor cries out, "What's the point? Where are we going with all this?

   "In Christ's Holy Church, we have a goal, a calling. It's called Theosis. In anutshell, it means, strive to grow daily in Christ, to become more like Jesus. "Be yeperfect,"

   He said. Some religious groups may wrestle with, "which Jesus" or, "The definition of perfect? Nobody's perfect."

   For the Orthodox, the Faith "delivered once for all to the saints," does not change. Only arrogance believes it can "synchronize" the Timeless with the "fashion of this world which passeth away." For the Orthodox believer, "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and unto ages of ages." And if we really try to obey His call to beperfect - We find that He alone is our perfection - And that only in Him can we hope for growth in perfection - If in our weakness we are willing to serve Him and our neighbor- As He said to Saint Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness"

   All along our common pilgrimage to Theosis, we make choices. We make decisions regarding our own weaknesses or the imperfections of others. Again and again we ask ourselves, "What is the loving thing to do, for another, or for myself?" In the Church we are free to discover living, flexible guidelines of love:

Our Baptismal calling in the communion of love with God and neighbor.  Our Confessor who guides us again and again in the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Responsive awareness of our need to pray for self-knowledge and repentance.   Active participation in the forgiveness and forgiving that are life in Jesus Christ. Our freedom in Christ's Church to fail and get up again "seventy times seven."

   "The event which constitutes the Church is the dynamic act of taking man up, in his failure, and "grafting" that failure into the communion of saints; it is the freedom of love, the "absurdity" of love which rejects every rationalistic criterion for participation in the life of communion." (C. Yannaras)

   So, the loving thing to do? Pray. Find a way to advance, by your decision, others and yourself, further along the path to Theosis. Keep in mind that forgiveness is  not a license to continue to do wrong, go backwards, or engage in unhealthy behavior.

   Forgiveness is room to grow in a positive, healthy direction, like a plant toward the  sunlight, like a soul toward Jesus Christ.


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