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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

958: People ask that the Church be a refuge for the wounded and broken

Day 958: Sunday, October 30, 2022

People ask that the Church be a refuge for the wounded and broken, not an institution for the perfect.

Pope Francis has a great metaphor for the Church. He likes to talk about the Church as a “field hospital in the midst of a battle.” Life can be brutal.

Today, I would like to propose another metaphor for the Church. (When it comes to the Church, the more metaphors the better). I recommend that we think of the Church as a sycamore tree. This brings us to today’s Gospel. Jericho is on the north shore of the Dead Sea. Jesus is passing through town and a crowd has gathered. Zacchaeus, who is short in stature, is having trouble seeing the rabbi whose has caused such a fuss with his exorcisms and healings.

Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus because he is short. But I think it safe to say that he wants to see Jesus because his is despised. Zacchaeus is a tax collector. The Romans collected their taxes using a franchise system. An entrepreneur would pay a sum to the Roman authorities, and in return, he would have the legal right to collect an equal amount from the people in taxes plus a percentage extra as his profit. This system was ready-made for corruption.

So, Zacchaeus climbs into a sycamore tree to get a better view. The Church should be a sycamore tree. We need to be a place where those who are despised and marginalized can find a way to see the Lord as he is passing by.

This is more than enough for us to do. We should just try to be a place where people can get a glimpse. As in the story of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, the Lord will do the rest. This sycamore-metaphor is my own, but Catholics all around the world seem to be saying the same thing. For over a year, Catholics have been contributing to the preparations for next October’s Synod on Synodality.

Pope Francis wants us to reflect on our faith and the future of the Church’s service to the world. We are a people “on the road together” (syn-hodos). Now we are entering into the “continental phase” before next October’s Synod. The Local Churches throughout the world have gathered their people together, listened to their concerns, fears and hopes, and sent reports to Rome.

Now thirty Catholic leaders, meeting in the little town of Frascati in the vineyards outside Rome, have prepared a summary of these reports and, importantly, sent it back to us. Pope Francis wants the Local Churches to listen to what their fellow Catholics are saying in different parts of the world so that we can reflect on our own situation in greater depth.

Only then will we be ready for the Synod in Rome. Catholics all around the world are talking about people who are divorced, the poor, indigenous people, and people who have been forced to immigrate due to poverty, war and gang violence. Catholics in very different parts of the world are talking about women as well: women who have been trafficked; women who live in polygamous marriages, women who have had to terminate their pregnancies, as well as women who have been excluded from leadership in their parishes and dioceses.

(Deeds Not Words)

Catholics are also talking about LGBTQ+ people and children who have been abused and priests who are lonely or who don’t listen (or both). For example, in Bolivia, our fellow Catholics are saying, “As the Bolivian Church, we are saddened that we have not been able to effectively reach out to the poor on the peripheries and in the most remote places.”

In Lesotho, the Local Churches report that they are struggling with something unprecedented: “There is a new phenomenon in the Church that is absolutely new in Lesotho: same-sex relationships. [...] This novelty is disturbing for Catholics and for those who consider it a sin.

Not surprisingly, there are Catholics in Lesotho who have started practicing this behavior (loving those whom they love) and expect the Church to accept them and their way of behaving. This is a problematic challenge for the Church because these people feel excluded.”

In addition, the people of the Local Churches of Bolivia and Lesotho are being asked to reflect on what Catholics are saying here in the United States: “People ask that the Church be a refuge for the wounded and broken, not an institution for the perfect."

They want the Church to meet people wherever they are, to walk with them rather than judge them, and to build real relationships through caring and authenticity, not a purpose of superiority.” You can think of the Church as a field hospital during a battle. Or, you can think of the Church as a sycamore tree, welcoming those who are despised and excluded to climb up in order to get a glimpse of the Lord as he passes by.

All we need to do is give them a strong and sturdy branch that will support us. The Lord will do the rest, just as he did with Zacchaeus.

- Reflection by Jim Fredericks

Here's a link to a document on the Synod, that Jim is encouraging us all to read.

Announcement #2: Diarmuid Visits!

Plan to be at Knox on Thursday, November 10, 2022, for an intimate chat with our friend, mentor and wise man Diarmuid O'Murchu.

Time: 1:00 - 3:00PM

Bring your questions please!

If you'd like to join by Zoom:

Join Zoom Meeting with this link:

Passcode: 1234

Meeting ID: 519 315 8573

One tap mobile

+16699006833,,5193158573# US (San Jose)

+16694449171,,5193158573# US

(Remember this from so long ago. Diarmuid has been such a good friend)

And please remember the public meeting with Diarmuid:

(files attached below for downloading and sharing)

Diarmuid Flyer 11-13-22 Revised_v1
Download JPG • 160KB

Diarmuid Flyer 11-13-22 Revised_v1
Download PDF • 1.62MB

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