“To heal all wounds.” 

Portrait_of_Dominique_LacordaireThis post is a continuation of a previous post. To read the previous post, click here: What Does it Mean to be a Priest? Part 4: On Mystery

If there were ever four words to sum up Christ’s reason for coming to us, it might be these. So it is of no surprise that Lacordaire uses these four words to describe what it means to be a priest.

“Go and Do Likewise”

One of the most well-known examples of healing found in scripture is the story of the Good Samaritan. I think it would be safe to say that most people understand the point of this story as “love thy neighbor.” More often than not we envision ourselves as the character of the Good Samaritan and the injured man to be other people in our lives; after all that is what Jesus tells us this parable is about at the story’s conclusion. But what if we change the characters around? What if, for instance, we envision ourselves as the injured man, and Christ as the Good Samaritan? This story then begins to take on a whole new meaning. From this perspective we can come to better understand this story, the priesthood as a whole, and Christ Himself. From this interpretation of the story we can come to believe that it is not so much our “injured” selves approaching Christ as it is Christ, in His perfection, coming to us and healing our brokenness. Christ, like the Good Samaritan, meets us where we are. He comes to us in our broken and wounded life and He loves us and heals us. We, like the injured man on the side of the road, have done nothing, and will do nothing, to deserve this love and mercy but because Christ is Who He is, our brokenness is mended and our wounds are healed.

Christ ends the parable of the Good Samaritan by commanding us to “go and do likewise.” Christ commands us to not wait for those wounded and broken people to come to us, but to go out and meet them where they are and show them love and mercy. And this is what Christ calls his priests to do: actively seek out those in need of healing rather than simply wait for them to come to you. The life of a priest is not a passive or apathetic one but rather an active and enthusiastic one. This is what it means to be a priest; to go and do what Christ did, to not wait for the right moment, but to act in the moment, and heal all wounds through Christ.

Priesthood as a Field Hospital

I am reminded of a wonderful image of what the Church and priesthood ought to look like:

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.” – Pope Francis

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jesus’ most famous parable and one of Pope Francis’ most famous quotes are about the same thing: healing. The Good Samaritan didn’t ask the injured man anything, he simply loved him, cared for him, and led him to healing. To be a priest means to do the same; to heal first and then talk about everything else. This is obviously easier said than done. We all have preconceived notions and judgments that can hinder our ability to see others as Christ sees them. But by the grace of the Holy Spirit we can come to serve as Christ serves, and love as Christ loves. To heal is to be merciful, and to be merciful is to love. Christ came to love all people, be merciful to all sinners, and heal all wounds. Go, priest of Jesus Christ, and do likewise.