Healing wounds and warming hearts

I’ve often heard the church described as a hospital. I like the way the pope used that metaphor in his August interview.

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “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.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

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6 thoughts on “Healing wounds and warming hearts

  1. …..The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful……
    Truest and best observation in the piece.

    It seems to me Pope Frances is going back to the beginning.
    The Pope is offering the milk and will follow with the meat in good time.
    In perfect alignment with scripture.

    Pope Francis also reminds us:
    “Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”

    1. I do not know if he is thinking in terms of milk and meat, but your point there is very helpful to me. Yes, if the people are not ready for meat, then we should not be offering it. I think we fall into this fear that people will not change or grow as they encounter and live under the gospel.

  2. I agree with d’s statement about the confessor….but it jumped out at me for different reasons I think. This whole portion:

    “And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.”

    If we read it slowly there is one thing that seems to carry the most emphasis. I would agree that the pope is going back to the beginning, if by that you mean the beginning of the Catholic church. What he is addressing has been a problem for 500 years plus. The only way for the type of healing he is talking about to be realized would require going back about 1400 years further. Back when the church as a whole constituted the “pastoral ministry”…..priests. Priests – plural.

    The whole idea of “solo minister” and assigned “clergy” will never….ever….ever….ever meet the needs of the hurting and wounded world……never. To use his analogy of a field hospital….in todays “church system” …..it would be like a wounded man walking into a hospital where there was only one doctor with a small staff of nurses……and 200 spectators. The real problem with ministering lies in the fact that “ministers” have no idea how to begin to have a participatory church…..because the modern church does not give room for participation in ministry.

    I’m not talking about volunteering to work the nursery, teach a class, provide cupcakes and coffee, though these are all forms of helping and all appreciated. I’m talking about every person in the church ministering…..edifying each other…..growing and continuing to transform by the understanding that each is a part of the body….the ministry……the church. When the church re-discovers this…..the hurting will be not just healed, but transformed. Why? Because, though the pope would have us believe different in his sentence, “In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.”, pastoral ministry never healed anyone…..only Christ…..using his whole body heals. The finger can’t touch without the hand, the arm, shoulder…..etc. The institutionalized church mold needs to be broken.

    Sorry for being so wordy. This is just something that has been so prominent in my thoughts and heart as of late. I appreciate your blog John, and that you and your other readers would lend me their ear.

    ….peace

    1. Just to make clear what I was pointing to….
      What I hear Pope Francis saying is there is way too much time spent on hot issues that divide.
      I hear him saying it is time to “preach Christ crucified” as the early apostles did. It is how their ministry to the new or to be members of the Christian Faith where introduced to this God we call Jesus and the Christian Church that would follow.
      The beginning, Christ Crucified and risen, is the foundation of the faith and must be taught first (the milk) so one is able to accept the harder to digest foods that will follow (meat) using the Apostle Paul’s analogy.

      There will be no change in doctrine and there has been no and will be no change in the position or practice of the RCC and that is made clear by the statement;
      “ The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that”
      Isn’t is it fascinating many can and many have made the above statement concerning change without hesitiation when the RCC is spoken of ?
      It is the strength of the church in a very uncertain world.

      Thank you for your service, by the way.

  3. I should say that I am in no way targeting any man wearing the title of “pastor, priest, minister”. My closet friend was at one time the pastor of the church I grew the most in as a Christian. In that church I served as an elder, a youth counselor, and an adult teacher. My profession was a landscape architect. Now I work for the military in Germany as part of the fighter support squadron. My closet friends here are the chaplains. I realize that there are many Godly men and women full of love in the churches today that have a sincere heart and desire to reach the lost and share the gospel. I am targeting the positional hierarchy…..the man made, pagan birthed structure of the modern church that began way back in the middle of the second century that has lead most modern churches today to be a disabled body….. to the harm of both the members and the pastors alike.

  4. I agree d, it is fascinating. I only mentioned my functions at different times in my church experience because I didn’t want it seen as though I had a limited perspective…..only from the outside looking in. Serving Christ is what fills the heart with joy. There is no anger in me towards church leadership, but, there is a sincere sorrow for the church as a whole that runs deep in my heart. More than anything I am prayerfully seeking answers.

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