Pope to priests, religious: A Church forgiven of her sins goes out to serve wounded humanity
By Robin Gomes
Reflecting on the transformation of St. Peter the Apostle, Pope Francis urged Chilean priests, religious and seminarians to be a prophetic Church, which washed of her sins is not afraid to go out and serve a wounded humanity.
Speaking to them in the Cathedral of Santiago, Tuesday evening, the Pope dwelt on John’s Gospel where Peter, disillusioned after the Resurrection, goes back to fishing but catches nothing. However, at the Lord’s behest, he casts the net on the right side and comes up with a miraculous haul of fish.
Transformation of Peter
Pope Francis reminded the priests and religious about the personal and communitarian dimensions of their vocation. He thus reflected on Peter and the community disheartened, Peter and the community shown mercy, and Peter and the community transfigured.
Speaking about the “hours of dismay and confusion” in the life of Peter in the aftermath of the Resurrection, the Pope acknowledged that in times “when the tempest of persecutions, tribulations, doubts, and so forth, is raised by cultural and historical events, it is not easy to find the path to follow.” But, he said, the “worst temptation of all is to keep dwelling on our own unhappiness”
Pain of abuse of minors
Alongside the “fidelity of the immense majority” of priests and religious, the Pope admitted there are also “weeds of evil and their aftermath of scandal and desertion”. Pope Francis particularly spoke about the “pain resulting from cases of abuse of minors” in the Church of Chile, which he said cause harm and sufferings to the victims and their families, to ecclesial communities and also to priests and religious themselves. He thus urged them to ask God for the grace of “clear-sightedness to call reality by its name, the strength to seek forgiveness and the ability to listen to what He tells us.”
Journey of conversion
Amidst changes taking place in Chilean society, Pope Francis urged the priests and religious to fight the temptation of being closed and isolated and defending their ways, forgetting that the “Gospel is a journey of conversion.”
Pointing out that Peter experienced his limitation, his frailty and his sinfulness, Pope Francis said that as disciples and Church “we have to face not our success but our weakness”. Jesus wants to save Peter from self-centredness and isolation, from bring downcast and negative.
Wounded Church heals world’s wounds
The one thing that sustains his apostles, the Pope said, is that they have received mercy. Priests and religious, he said are not superheroes or better than others, but “are sent as men and women conscious of having been forgiven.”
Just as Jesus did not hide his wounds, so too we are “not asked to ignore or hide our wounds,” the Pope said, adding, “a Church with wounds can understand the wounds of today’s world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them.” “A wounded Church does not make herself the centre of things,… but puts at the centre the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ.”
The acknowledgement that we are wounded, the Pope said, frees us from becoming self-referential and thinking ourselves superior.” Our wounds that are risen in Jesus, inspire solidarity; they help us to tear down the walls that enclose us in elitism and they impel us to build bridges and to encounter all those yearning for that merciful love which Christ alone can give.
Peter who is disheartened and then transfigured, the Pope said, is the image of a prophetic Church, which washed of her sin, is unafraid to go out to serve a wounded humanity. It is an invitation to pass from being a Church of the unhappy and disheartened to a Church that serves all those people who are unhappy and disheartened in our midst – a Church capable of serving her Lord in those who are hungry, imprisoned, thirsting, homeless, naked and infirm.
Kingdom of heaven
The problem the Pope said, is not feeding the poor, clothing the naked and visiting the sick, but rather recognizing that the poor, the naked, the sick, prisoners and the homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel “at home” among us, to feel part of a family. "This is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is in our midst. This is the sign of a Church wounded by sin, shown mercy by the Lord, and made prophetic by his call," the Pope added.