We Are the Field HospitalOctober 28th, 2013
When Pope Francis talks about the Church as the image of a field hospital after battle, he’s including among others the many people, baptized or not, who have a minimal understanding of what it is like to be in a relationship with Jesus- especially Jesus as the ultimate healer. He is saying that we can’t begin to acquaint someone with the Church and her teachings until someone has come to know and experienced divine love and who has come to love Jesus in return. First things first, it’s the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus and his love, then comes the teaching and an understanding of such teaching in its systematic context.
The way someone comes to know and love Jesus is to have an experience of the love of Jesus. If we are the Body of Christ, then it stands to reason we must bring the love of Christ to others with our hearts, hands, and feet. So the conversation about Jesus with another begins with a mutual relationship. Its not a conversation in the way we might think, although it can be. Its more of an interaction of caring. We are the experience through relationship. We evangelize through actions grounded in authenticity. After all that-and in due time- comes the why we do what we do.
All this may sound simple. But let’s be honest. Bringing the love of Christ to others is a simple idea which is anything but simple to do. To arrive at those actions on how we treat one another charitably- or even purifying what we think about one another- sometimes takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Sort of like Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In order to do God’s will, which is to follow Jesus, we have to let go of competitive tensions, rivalry, jealousy, pride, envy, greed, addictions, compulsions, love of power, love of money, over-indulgence, love of fame, selfishness, laziness (especially the spiritual kind), uncontrolled anger, and hatred. In other words we have to let go and be healed of the sinful side of the human condition, that is, the battlefield which Pope Francis speaks of. This side of the human condition is why we, all of us, are in the hospital too.
Catholic Priest and spiritual writer Henry Nouwen wrote a book entitled The Wounded Healer. He said “Through compassion it is possible to recognize that the craving for love that people feel resides also in our own hearts, that the cruelty the world knows all too well is also rooted in our own impulses. Through compassion we also sense our hope for forgiveness in our friends’ eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths. When they kill, we know that we could have done it; when they give life we know that we can do the same. For a compassionate person nothing human is alien: no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.”
Think about it. We can be with someone else in their struggles more easily when we know what it is like to work through our own struggles. Survivors ourselves, we know what it is like to survive the battlefield, then thrive. Wounded healers we are called to be.
We never know who will cross our path on any given day. We might be given an unexpected opportunity to be compassionate toward someone else who desperately needs it. Who in your world could use a dose of compassion today?