Last evening in response to yesterday’s “Healing” I got an email from a friend about someone who feels hurt by the catholic religion. I can understand this very easily. There is a lot of religious hurt going around, often caused by insensitivity. A lot of it happens among our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, and some of it comes from other sources also. When I was stationed at Ft Lewis in Washington State, my spiritual director was a Buddhist nun who had been raised catholic. When she told me why she decided to leave the catholic church I understood her and agreed that it was the right thing for her to do. She had a wisdom that comes only from great suffering and a sense of betrayal. Over the next few months, February thru May the Cleveland LGBT+ Community Center is sponsoring a “Church Hurt Group” “For those who have experienced emotional & psychological pain as a result of negative experiences within a religious community”. It is being led by two clergy persons from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, and looks to be a good source of healing for people who take part in it. Jesus called and is calling his followers to continue his work of healing, and yet so many of us are causing his, and our, people to hurt and suffer.
Every one who claims or wants to be Jesus’ followers needs to learn to bring his healing love to people in our life. We are all called to be ministers of healing and compassion, not judgement and threats. This doesn’t always happen in dramatic ways. Often it happens in simple gestures, smiles, kind remarks, just being there quietly and calmly, accepting people for who they are, not who we want them to be or think they should be.
On my own journey through PTSD stemming from Vietnam, I found very little understanding from the church itself, a number of whose “leaders” referred to me as “baby killer”. I’m still dealing with the effects of that stuff. I had the same experience with my first two heart attacks when I was told from people at all levels just to “get over it” and “get back to work. For me the healing happened through ordinary folks, in and out of the Army, who just gave me a place at their tables and let me be me, as annoying as that must have been. Then there was Donny, without whom I would not be writing this. There are times when the depth of a hurting person’s pain goes beyond description. If we have not been there, as well meaning as we would like to be, we have no idea of the pain and aloneness a hurting person feels. It is awful.
My point is that often healing happens in places and with people we don’t expect. From the perspective of the person in need of healing, it’s important to keep looking for healing, and be open to where the healing might happen. Be ready to be surprised. We don’t need to be too hard on ourselves. A lot of what hurts happened to us. We are not victims, we just have had different experiences that affect us in painful ways, and we have the opportunity to deal with them and grow. We can take charge of our life by actively choosing to look for healing wherever we may find it.
Then there is the perspective of any of us who, whether we are aware of it or not, are called to be minsters of healing to people in our life. For those of us who would like to be followers of Jesus we need to learn that there is more to this than just going to church and keeping all the rules, some of which are the source of of other’s hurting. Pope Francis is trying to move the church away from being rule focused and towards being Gospel focused, and he is having a tough time because so many think being “good catholic” means just keeping the rules, which, by the way, seem to differ from place to place, country to country, diocese to diocese. No wonder the confusion. It is our responsibility to live in a way that leads us to be open to Jesus moving among us in people. Francis also reminds us that “reality is greater than ideas”. Our reality is that people around us are hurting. Maybe we ourselves are hurting. We might or might not be aware of this. We believe Jesus is involved in all that is going on in and around us. Without claiming to have answers, we might just do what we can to be open to Jesus however, whatever. Fr Michael, the gay Catholic Priest and Chaplain to the FDNY on 911, prayed this well: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, let me say what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way”. I might add, “let me do what you want me to do”. This is a worthwhile way of life that leads us to be ready for anything Jesus calls us to do or be, including providers of his healing, whether we are aware of it or not.
An important thing for all of us to remember is that from time to time everyone, including each of us, is carrying a heavy burden we might know nothing about. As Jesus’ disciples we need to ask the grace always to be kind and ready to bring healing, maybe not even knowing we are doing it. At the times when we are carrying our own heavy load we might ask the grace to be open to the possibility of Jesus being with us in unexpected persons and happenings, the “grace of the present moment”, which is very real. Healing, whether for those needing to be healed or those being ministers of healing, is a journey, often a life long journey.
I firmly believe in these things: Real Presence, Jesus is truly present in each of us and all of us as we gather together in his name; people in our life have the right and need to be in our life, because in the providence of God, we need each others’ gifts, we are necessary to each other; God is a verb, and God is being God in us as we walk through life with other people; God’s healing is pure non-judgmental compassion, and we are called to live this. Just sayin . . . .