and other superficial platitudes
I ran across a short thread on Twitter earlier today, one that I think both misses something important and reflects a common idea within Catholicism.
The tweets, written by a Carmelite friar, said:
"Jesus welcomed sinners" is a different attitude than, "Jesus called sinners to repentance." There's a mindset of superficial platitudes in the Church, that I'm trying to get a grasp on and put into words...
He said, "The healthy don't need a physician, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners." It would be a strange sort of physician who prided himself on merely welcoming sick people into his office, and not on diagnosing, prescribing and healing
...and if he keeps basing his practice on the rediculously rudimentary claim that the sick would be healed by "feeling welcome" in his office, people may begin to sense that he's a quack, that he has nothing to offer, and seek help elsewhere.
There has to be something deeper and more substantial in our Church, than merely being "welcoming."
But what if Jesus welcoming someone was healing in itself? What if experiencing Jesus is what moves hearts to repentance? Being welcomed by the Word of God through whom all things were made is not a trivial thing.
Personal presence, listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard—even without anything else—is healing. And that’s just with another regular person. Imagine what kind of healing and transformation is possible if it’s with God himself.
There’s a hidden presumption in these tweets that Jesus must impose on others in order to convince them to convert rather than grace moving their own hearts from within. It presumes that Jesus had an agenda when he met with people throughout his earthly ministry.
However, Pope Francis teaches that God’s love has no agenda:
“Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him.”
God has no agenda when he loves me. He puts no conditions on his love. He accepts my experiences, thoughts, and feelings as my own. Not necessarily approving them, but not expecting them to be anything different than what they are in order for him to love me. He respects my freedom. Even when I use my freedom in a way that harms myself and others.
Encountering Jesus is not a trivial thing. It’s the dramatic in-breaking of divine love and power that is necessary for any further work of holiness. We cannot convert without our first hearts being moved by an encounter with God. As the Church has proclaimed for centuries, “Even the desire to be cleansed comes about in us through the outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit”.
Perhaps being welcomed by Jesus is substantial. Perhaps it’s enough.