10 March, Life-2

There were some interesting and disturbing responses to what I wrote yesterday about Jesus coming not to condemn us but that we may have eternal life through him. These responses were examples of “Church Hurt”. I mentioned that in the Mass Prayer for today we pray, “Teach us, the people who bear his name, to follow the example he gave us: may our faith, hope, and charity turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life“. Then I also wrote, “Much about Christianity involves judging and condemning, deciding who is in and who is out, things Jesus never did”. Perhaps the roots for Church Hurt. Writing this now this morning is not something I want to do, but it seems I can’t not do it. People are hurting. I wonder.

I’ve had some interesting experiences on my journey, as have most of us. What happened in our past influences how we live now. For several years while I was stationed in the Pacific Northwest my spiritual director was a Buddhist nun, who was recommended to me by some Catholic nuns when I was helping at their motherhouse. This nun had been raised catholic, but when I heard why she decided to leave the catholic church and turn to Buddhism I had to agree. Without doubt the church system had treated her badly, allegedly in God’s name, which is becoming a business as usual practice. I “sat” with her group for an hour on Saturday mornings, and met with her individually at least weekly as my duty schedule would allow. Thankfully I leaned a lot. I’ve met, and am still meeting, other good folks who also have been mistreated by the church, allegedly in the name of Jesus, for any number of reasons — marital status, who they love or how they see themselves, lifestyle, paperwork, etc, — and have chosen just to walk away. I feel bad about their choice, but I understand and support them. Don’t know what I would do if I were in their position. I really need the Eucharist.

One of the respondents mentioned a favorite song about heaven that says, “I don’t wanna go to Heaven if I can’t get in . . . Don’t wanna go to Heaven if they don’t want me”. That seems pretty depressing. If as a church we have promoted such an idea of heaven, we really have done a bad job of teaching or living the Gospel, the Good News Jesus came to show us, that God who is creating us loves us as we are, and we can’t do anything to change this, other than decide we don’t want anything to do with God’s love. We have presented God as a judge to be afraid of, whom we have to please or else. Jesus showed us a God who reaches out to every one of us in loving care and compassion regardless of what any church organization says to or about us. A worthwhile question is how many religious system’s rules have little to do with God or Jesus, but are concerned with good order in the system and keeping the people in line, neat and orderly? I’m not sure God really cares about paperwork, jurisdiction, messiness, etc. 

We are sinners, but not fallen sinners. Each of us is a work in progress, and needs forgiveness and mercy. I’m constantly reminded that I sure do. Each of us is a marvelous work constantly growing into our own fullness, and this is no easy process for any of us. We are created to love and be loved. We need support from God, which we call grace, and when we look for it from groups who tell us they are acting in God’s name, we find that if we want to please God we have to follow the system’s rules, and each system has its own rules, which differ from each other, and claim theirs is the only true way to God. In other words, if we want to get to God we have to go through them. Are rules more important than the Gospel? And so Church Hurt happens.

How many good people, deemed by a church system to be not welcome for whatever reason, are living by gospel values without using religious terms, doing good things, raising wonderful families, caring for others and the environment, yet feel judged and left out? Jesus gave us two commandments: “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” No mention of any paperwork, annulment, and so on. But, if something is a sin, it is a sin for everybody regardless of what their religious tradition is or if they have no tradition. This is not the case. So now what? Where is Jesus in all this?

It really bothers me to hear someone say “there is no place for me in the Catholic Church”, or “I live with my love but we are not married”, or “the church doesn’t like how I see myself”. In this I hear pain and suffering. What to do? How to bring healing? At World Youth Day Pope Francis said, “Todos, todos, todos!” . . . there is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is — also for who makes mistakes, for who falls, for who it is difficult.” And in many ways the system, especially in the United States, has been saying “No”. Jesus did not have any “purity codes” for his followers. He taught us a “Way” of living God’s limitless love for every one of us without any pre-conditions. He accepted people as they were and where they were, as he does with every one of us here and now. Do we know something God doesn’t know?

As God “happens” through the people in our life, so does evil, the nasty ways we treat each other allegedly in God’s name. It seems “Church Hurt” is becoming a new ministry these days. Jesus brings His Father’s healing to everybody in or out of any religious system, maybe not in ways we can understand now, but it seems to be a call to any of us who would like to see ourselves as Jesus’ disciples. Maybe some questions I have to ask myself, though not sure what they are yet. Not sure where, or if, I want to go there. Maybe they will come. Jesus was badly treated when he lived his Father’s love. Is this saying anything to me now? Am I called to something in all this? Wandering, wondering. Can I say, “Yes, Lord”? Again listening to “Lay your hands gently upon us”. Don’t know. Just sayin  .  .  .