By Natashya Fernandez
Live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes her children always, who takes care of their imperfections and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel – 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
Bishop of Darwin, Eugene Hurley reflected on Pope Francis’ words in his talk, entitled – Being merciful in the field hospital at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney last week.
Speaking at one of the workshops on Friday 8 December that saw some 100 youth gathered for his talk, Bishop Hurley reflected on the Synod on the Family and why he is excited about the Church and where it is today.
Bishop Hurley took the opportunity to share his experience of the Synod and said that as the Church enters into this new era, he is privileged to be a part of it.
“How does the Church look in the field hospital?” he asked the youth gathered for his talk.
“That’s what I am here to share with you today,” Bishop Hurley said.
He reiterated Pope Francis’ words at the Synod, and said that even though we know the law and the doctrine, it was important to consider how to apply it to a person in various situations and how law and doctrine work in times of difficulty.
“I think what Pope Francis wanted to say is we know the law, we know the doctrine but how does that look on a Friday night when you have a young mother with kids waiting for her drunk and violent husband to come back home to beat them up again?
“How does this law and doctrine look here? How is the Church present for her and the children?
“When that woman rightly, correctly, faithfully leaves that operation because it is violent and disrespectful, she might meet somebody who loves her and her children and the Church says – no you can’t receive communion because you are already married – what does that look like? What does the law and the doctrine look like for her?
“And that’s the question at the pastoral heart of any Bishop or Priest. That people make mistakes. Does that mean that they are not wanted?” he asked.
Bishop Hurley went on to say that that is exactly what Pope Francis and the Synod were pointing out – the Church is like a field hospital – there are people injured and hurt everywhere, and we should go out and start some healing.
It’s an image of the Church that is not too far from the truth, Bishop Hurley added.
Discussing an image of a cross projected on a screen above, he said that some only saw what they wanted to see.
“For me, it is kind of a metaphor. We see what’s clear and we often don’t see the pressures that are not so clear at all. When we look at it now we see the white arrows putting pressure on that person of Jesus Christ, on the person trying to be Jesus Christ, going out into the world.
“How does that mother get out of that violent situation? How does she bring Jesus to the world? And if we don’t see that, we wonder why she’s not at Mass? Because that’s the law,” he explained.
He went on to add that Pope Francis said the Church must accompany with attention and care, the weakest of the children, by restoring in them hope and confidence like a beacon in a lighthouse, or a torch carried among people to enlighten those who have lost their way or in the midst of a storm.
Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital, he affirmed.
“That’s not the profile of the Church in a public arena. Most people don’t see the Church like this, looking out for the weakest and troubled and welcoming them like a lighthouse in the storm, a place of safety where they are loved.
Bishop Hurley continued by saying that the Synod addressed various situations of weakness or imperfection that was the whole point of looking at the Church; looking at people’s lives as they are.
He added that there are two ways of thinking which recur in our Church’s history – casting off and reinstating.
“The Church’s way from the time the council of Jerusalem has always been the way of Jesus, the way of Mercy and reinstatement. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for it ever; it’s to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on those who ask for it with a sincere heart. Isn’t that a lovely model of the Church? A true family, a mother and father.
“How can I as the Bishop trying to demonstrate the heart of Jesus that the Church has got to be like a field hospital trying to heal these people? How am I to make out that it doesn’t matter?
“The Synod fathers noted that special discernment is indispensable for the pastoral care of those who are separated, divorced or abandoned. I can say to you that this is not the image of the Church in many ways either.
“For me that stands out so much, that person need to not feel as ex-communicated from the Church but instead made to feel like living members able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother.
“So this is what the Pope is asking us as a Church, to be that mother,” he concluded.