Field Hospital

Field Hospital

by John Dalla Costa

Pope Francis often describes the church as a “field hospital.” The world’s wounds are not of tangential concern to the church. They are its holy mission. Indeed, evangelization is empty without attending to both the causes and aftermaths of those injuries that effect the health of body, mind, heart and soul. Early church fathers and mothers recognized that, as the mystical body of Christ, the church must continue the healing work of Jesus’ ministry. St. John Chrysostom called the church “a hospital for sinners, not a court of law.” St. Ambrose recognized that “sickness needs medicine. The medicine is the heavenly and venerable sacrament of the Eucharist.” Pope Francis is retrieving this ancient legacy, while also renewing it. He is asking us each to go into the world, as only we can – in the fields of our own our workplaces and classrooms, of our daily meetings and coffeeshop encounters, of our political activity and social justice work – to bring, as Jesus did, sacramental healing, hope and joy to others. Today’s readings remind us of the revolutionary power to heal that we’ve inherited through Baptism. The law in Leviticus logically sought to protect the community from leprously, which is as contagious as it is catastrophic. The burden of the law, however, fell on the ill, so that those afflicted with the disease were held responsible for their own painful ostracization. Jesus reverses this law, making himself vulnerable to the most vulnerable. In the passage preceding today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples : “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also.” Moving into the field, which is always unpredictable and dangerous, Jesus meets the leper, and heals him. Such a hospital is not a place, but a disposition: it is not a structure, but an encounter, which looks beyond legal responsibility to attend to the moral needs of the human person before, or beside us. Not surprisingly, the medicine we usually most need personally is often the same as that, which by our gifts, and by God’s grace, only we can administer to others.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Leviticus 13.1-2, 45-46
  • Psalm 32
  • 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1
  • Mark 1.40-45