Heal the wounds! With the Sacraments!
By Fr. Garry Roche SVD - Mt. Hagen
17 OCT 2013. In a now famous interview to the editor in chief of the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilta’ Cattolica Pope Francis is cited as saying: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” Pope Francis is not challenging the moral standards the Church has set forth, but he is raising important questions about what is the best way that pastors can help the faithful (and pastors themselves) to achieve those standards.
The Catholic Church has set forth high moral standards. However, perhaps we have not always adequately understood the role of the Sacraments and the role of the Church itself in helping the faithful to achieve those high moral standards. At times we seem to be saying to people, “If you do not reach our high moral standards you cannot participate fully in the life of the Church.” Whereas in reality it is through the fullest possible participation in the life of the Church that high moral standards can be achieved.
People who have difficulty in living up to high moral standards may need the Eucharist even more than those who seem to lead lives of perfection. The Eucharist is not a reward for being good, it is food for the hungry. The Church is intended to be a “making holy” Church not a “looking holy” one.
Pope Francis is also quoted as saying: “I see clearly, that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.”
Church pastors have become very good at diagnosing moral problems. Perhaps we have not been so good at healing. And Pope Francis is reminding us that we, and the whole Church, need to become better at healing, and to recognize that the Sacraments, including the Eucharist, should be part of that healing process.
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