Waivable protocols

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

In reaching out to those who are still far from the Church, those who are even hostile to it, those in the peripheries, etc., as we should, following the example and command of Christ, a most basic and commonsensical principle to follow is that we avoid using the same standards and criteria, the same protocols that those who are already very much in the Church follow.

It’s like in the family where you have grown-up children and a little child and a little baby. We treat them differently. We expect the little child and the little baby to make some mess and we would just clean it up, while giving them some training appropriate to their condition. Even among the grown-up children, you can have those who are healthy and sick, strong and weak, etc., and we treat them according to how they are.

There obviously are common things that have to be observed by all, and these are what we call the essentials. In the end, the ultimate essential is love, the love that comes from God, a love that can adapt itself to any situation, because as St. Paul said in his Letter to the Romans, “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (13,10)

The other things, like the protocols about how to pray, how to make sacrifice, how to attend Mass, etc., can be waived if the conditions warrant and even require it. We have to be discerning and prudent in applying the protocols to different kinds of people.

We have to contend with a great variety of differences among the people, and we should just have to learn to deal with that reality. Among the most obvious things that we need to do is to have constant monitoring of these differences and constantly studying as well how these differences can be handled accordingly.

The differences can come in terms of age, culture, profession, social and economic status, intelligence level, temperament, ideology, political preference, etc. It’s about time that these differences are closely monitored and regularly inventoried, with appropriate plans and strategies of how to deal with them properly.

We cannot and should not absolutize what only has relative value. And vice-versa, of course. We should not relativize what has absolute and permanent value, no matter what the conditions and situations on the ground are.

As already said many times, what is of absolute value, what is truly and ultimately essential, what is non-negotiable, is love, a love that comes from Christ. And if we look at how Christ showed and lived out that love, we can say that he did away with many of the legalisms and human traditions of the elders at that time to reach out to those who were the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son.

Imagine what he did to show this love. Being God, he became man. His first 30 years of hidden life were spent just like how everybody else spent their time—working and doing the usual duties. Even in his public life, he led a simple and austere life despite the preaching and the wonderful miracles that he performed.

In the end, he allowed himself to suffer all kinds of indignities all the way to being crucified just to assume all our sins and reopen the gates of heaven for all of us. St. Paul said that he was made like sin without committing sin just to save us. (cfr. 2 Cor 5,21)

It’s love more than merely following some laws, customs and traditional practices that matters. He, of course, subjected himself to these laws and traditions, but when the demands of love transcend the scope of these laws and traditions, he simply did what he had to do out of love, even if he ended misunderstood, persecuted and ultimately executed.

This example of love of Christ is what we have to follow when we try to obey his command that we love one another as he himself has loved us.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com