For our Lenten Journey I offer these words of Cardinal Cupich of Chicago on Pope Francis’ call to us:

            When the church keeps Christ to herself and doesn’t let him out, it becomes “self-referential and then gets sick.” To avoid this the church must go out of itself to the peripheries to minister to the needy.

            This is evangelization. This is the mission entrusted to the church by Jesus Christ—and it was precisely in this moment that he foreshadowed his program for the Catholic Church as a “field hospital” for the wounded, a profound, indeed stunning image.

            The “field hospital church” is the antithesis of the “self-referential church.” Of course one cannot prioritize the needy without understanding their sufferings and challenges. This entails listening. We begin with a question: “How can we help?” Then they tell us where it hurts. This requires patience. Docility and openness to learning about how best to serve them in the particular circumstances and relationships that mark their lives. This is neither the place nor the time for pre-diagnoses in the form of prejudgments or predeterminations. In the language of spiritual direction, we call that discernment. Discernment is a word that reminds us to seek what is possible, what is of value, what is working in the person that will help reintegrate him or her back into society.

            Of course, there is risk in going out into the field of battle, of moving out of one’s comfort zone and the security of one’s experience. Pope Francis speaks about our need to leave the safety of the sacristy for the mess of being with the needy. Pastors have to be unafraid to get mud on their shoes. They have to be willing to make mistakes that come from learning from the wounded and trying new treatments. How many cures have been discovered in the urgency of combat? Improvisation can lead to creative solutions.

            The medicine in this field hospital has a name. It is called mercy. The medicine of mercy is ever adaptable to meet the present need; it is available to all and requires no prescription. Mercy isn’t mercy if it resides at the end of an obstacle course, or has to compete with power, or is reserved for the wounds of a few, or—worse—requires a certain level of health before being applied.

Bringing the medicine of mercy to the world is the most effective way for the disciples of Jesus to recapture the joy of the Gospel.  The field hospital heals the healers as well. Something transformative happens to them as they work together to serve the needy. They gain a fresh sense of purpose, hope and joy about life as they discover new ways of healing.

                        Father John Hynes