This weekend is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The readings can be found here. This Feast occurs at the end of the Infancy Narratives in the Gospel of Luke and is rich with symbolism of both the continuity of Christianity as an evolution of Jewish theology and the message of the commonality of all humanity that Christianity offers.
The reflection for this week however, comes from a homily given last weekend by friend of the blog, Deacon David Backes. Dr. Backes used Pope Francis’ imagery of the Church as a field hospital in a battlefield. This description was more than a metaphor in the life of Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard served as a stretcher bearer in World War I and was present as some of the bloodiest battles of the trench warfare of the war. For his bravery, Teilhard was awarded For his bravery Teilhard was awarded the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre.
This experience had a formative effect on Teilhard’s philosophy and during this period he developed some of his key ideas of the evolution of humanity towards the Noosphere and how suffering is sometimes a necessary element in the transformation of humanity (both at the individual and collective level).
Dr. Backes’ homily focuses on how healing power can transform us to break down the barriers that divide us to recognize our common humanity. I encourage you to read the entire homily here but set forth below is an extended summary:
We are naturally drawn to people who use their authority not to condemn, not to force things upon us, but to listen, to touch, to show compassion. In short, to heal.
That’s what we see in the Gospels. That’s the way Jesus lived out his own authority. In today’s reading we see two things going on: Jesus announces that the kingdom of God is not only for some distant future but is present right now; and then he invites people in by preaching the word, calling people by name, and especially by healing.
About a third of the content of the Gospels relates to healing. Jesus made it clear that the healing of our bodies, our emotions, our spirits, is at the very heart of the kingdom of God among us. The healings were not simply for those who received them. They were for everyone. They were powerful signs that helped open people’s hearts to the possibility that the reign of God IS now, just like Jesus said. They showed people that sin did not take away God’s love and mercy; that they were beloved children of God and if they took the chance to take his hand he would never let go.
Pope Francis is trying to restore that same dynamic today. He sees a world that is very unforgiving, and a Church that too often enters into that unclean spirit of the world. He says, “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful…. 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.”
In the Gospel, we see Jesus heal the wounds, and that built up hope and drew people to him, people who were more ready to listen to his life-giving words. And then he started to grow his kingdom by calling people and inviting them to join him. Now, our Gospel passage makes it sound as though the apostles dropped everything right at that very moment and took off with Jesus. But in the Gospel of Luke, this calling of the apostles occurs after Jesus has been in Capernaum for a while. In fact, Peter had come to know Jesus earlier, when Jesus came into his home and cured his mother-in-law of a severe fever. Even for the apostles, being exposed to Jesus’ healing ministry helped open their hearts to his calling.
So it is with us today. The world is filled with such suffering, and such unhealthy responses to it, that for the Church to really show us the reality of Christ it must become like a field hospital after battle, healing wounds and opening hearts in the process. We are all the church, so this means each of us.
This week I pray for the grace to follow the call of Pope Francis and emulate the example of Teilhard de Chardin to help heal the wounds that I have caused through my selfishness and inaction.