There is nothing like a papal interview to rouse your humble blogger from her slumber. I’m sorry that I have not been around for over two weeks. And this is WAY long for any blog post, but what can I tell you. Get some coffee, have a seat, put your feet up, and see what you think.
With so much already said, parsed, analyzed, and dissected about the papal interview that was published on the website of America Magazine yesterday? I tried to write something last night, but too many thoughts were still swirling in my head. Were? Still are.
Upon awakening I recalled fragments of my strange dream from last night. Dream analyzers, don’t tell me that this means something horrible please.
In the dream, I was on a huge plane, a plane about the size of several city blocks. And it looked like blocks, not like the interior of a plane! We had a hard, hard landing, which I particularly felt, because I was at the back of plane. Upon exiting the plane, I could see that it was not just a hard landing, but that we had had a crash landing, and while no one was hurt, everyone seemed a bit stunned and disoriented.
Then I looked up across the tarmac. There was a field hospital off to one side, treating wounded people, although they did not seem to come from our plane. I could see all of this in the dream because one wall of the building was non-existent, and it was all on display. Here’s the thing… the field hospital was in an enormous old church. So many people inside of this church were being tended to. I walked closer to the church/field hospital and saw that there were some terribly ill and injured people there. Each person appeared to have several people, doctors and nurses I guess. It was hard to tell, because no one was dressed in a particular way, just lots of people caring for others.
Today many of us are roused from our slumber in a world that feels a bit different. No -we as church have not crashed, but we have landed in a hard way. In a good hard way, if you ask me. Today we may feel a bit disoriented, rubbing the sleep from our eyes, wondering “did that really happen?”
Um yes – it did. It really did. And yes, it is time to truly wake up.
Yesterday, in a New York Times article about the papal interview, the papal interviewer, Antonio Spadaro, SJ, said this about Pope Francis, “His big vision is to see the church in the middle of the persons who need to be healed.” Hello dream analysis!
Spadaro was of course referring to the Bishop of Rome’s own words in the 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….”
Of course he said many other things in the interview, things that out of context can sound like a high pitched and dangerous sound to some, shattering eardrums and probably breaking hearts. He said things that may sound to others as if he is “on their side.” I use that phrase because I received an email from someone saying that I must feel satisfied now because, “Pope Francis is clearly on your side!” The person sounded hurt, angry, disoriented – and I can understand that.
Let’s all keep calm if we can, please. And we already have a Jesuit at hand. TBTG, AMDG! (Thanks be to God, Ad Majorem Gloria Dei.)
What else can the church be other than a field hospital? As I ponder the imagery of Pope Francis’ language alongside the images from my dream, I keep thinking what I always think… Jesus did not ask people for their credentials, first he welcomed them. He welcomed them, he healed them, and while I’m pretty certain he meant to transform them, we don’t always hear that part of the story. People were healed, and off they went.
Look at the Apostles, that ragtag wacky crew of couldn’t-quite-get-it-right bumblers. Jesus was often terse with them, but he kept them at his side. Look at numero uno, the main man Peter, we all know too much about how it was him who deserted Jesus at the darkest hour. The true transformation of the Apostles came after the Resurrection.
If all that Jesus did was ask a lot of questions meant to let a few people in and keep most people out, I don’t know what to make of what we call church.
Jesus came to heal, save, and transform. He came to sort out the disorder – to free us from chaos. And that is what I think that Pope Francis is doing, too. Using the name of a favorite blog of mine, he is going on about that “messy Jesus business.”
No rules have been changed, so no – it is not a nightmare for those of you who feel like it was. No doctrine has been eliminated or discarded, so no – it is not a big party for those of you who think that you have been vindicated. By the way, I get that, because I do in fact feel that way. But unlike what my anonymous emailer said to me, Pope Francis and Jesus are not on “my side” any more than they are on any one side. They are on our collective side, which in fact means – there is no side.
Like my field hospital in the dream, the one missing a side that is, the church is an open hospital, with people streaming in. Some stream out to be certain, many will never enter, but there it is. Healing awaits, no insurance ID required, no group number or employer number is asked for.
I’ve quoted Anne Lamott so many times on this more times than I can say, but I will say it again…
“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott
It is a big, big church. I think that Pope Francis has said that over and over and over again for these six months that he has been pope. Think about that Gospel that you heard last Sunday, the one with the prodigal son story in it. Let’s remember that most of us are the wayward brother come home, we just like acting like the indignant other brother.
The hospital church is open, fully open. Come on in, have a look around, be healed. Then and only then, we’ll see what happens.