Friday, December 20, 2013

The Meaning of Bethlehem

By Fr. Miguel Cruzado, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La República
December 19, 2013

The Catholic Church is experiencing a time of reform and renewal whose historical range we cannot yet measure. Pope Francis, following the spirit of the conclave that elected him, is reviewing the government of the Church, its resource management, the training of its pastors, and the way we take responsibility for and correct mistakes. Pastoral care of the family will be reviewed at the next synod and all this may bring changes in Church law. However, along with the institutional structures, the Pope is stressing the importance of an inner renewal which means a real transformation in the sensibilities of believers and bears a sign for all humanity: "I dream of a missionary option...capable of transforming everything,...customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language," says Pope Francis.

The sensibility -- that deep feeling that becomes natural virtue -- isn't guided by decree or pure will. It involves discernment and a willingness to let be and take root in us that which we deem precious and true. In that journey, there are experiences and moments that can especially shape and transform us. Christmas time is one of those for believers, probably because in the event at Bethlehem the Christian message is clearly displayed and the meaning of the gospel is evident and overwhelming.

Bethlehem is the place of simplicity and authenticity. In Bethlehem, everything is simple and true; there is no artifice. God reveals Himself beautifully and simply -- a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a manger, a star. The Son of God, God Himself, has been born to us and is a baby in a manger. The Truth is revealed transparently, without robes or tinsel, in swaddling clothes under the light of the stars.

Bethlehem ought to develop in us a sensitivity to what is authentic and simple, starting with naturally asking ourselves whether it might not be possible to celebrate and be happy with fewer things and giving ourselves more time to really get to know and recognize each other. The Church, in the words of the Pope, warns us of the emptiness of things and religiosity in appearance only. It's time to "recover the original freshness of the Gospel."

Bethlehem is also the school of trust and acceptance. The Savior of the world is a baby offered to the world, all acceptance and possibility. The child who didn't find an inn in which to be born, receives shepherds and merchants out in the open. He doesn't shut himself in or protect himself. In the event at Bethlehem, there are no protective walls. Bethlehem is "the open house of the Father."

The sensibility of Bethlehem ought to lead us to "build bridges not walls" in relation to others. It ought to help free us from the violence and contempt with which we Peruvians can treat each other. Bring us as a Church to be more of a community -- less concerned with requirements and sides, always trying to love more and judge less. A "Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets", trying to tend to others, to those who most need us.

It is the appropriate time to delve into a sensibility of the authentic. Although it is not always easy to accept our stories, humanly and spiritually we can not grow without being. Time to delve into the simple which might shimmer tentatively but never hides the beautiful and always prevents false connections and empty hopes. Time for a sensibility of trust and acceptance that "in contact with the concrete existence of others" shows us the "strength of tenderness", makes injustice unbearable to us and reconciliation possible.

Let's hope this meaning of Bethlehem impregnates much more our Christian way of being, that our ethics become enriched with criteria of authenticity, simplicity of life, and caring for others, and that it influences the way we organize our common life. So that, as the carols say, the whole year can be Christmas.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Inner experience

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 22, 2013

Matthew 1:18-24

Matthew the evangelist had a special interest in telling his readers that Jesus must also be called "Emmanuel". He knows very well that this could be shocking and strange. Who could be called by a name that means "God with us"? However, this name contains the core of Christian faith and is the center of the Christmas celebration.

That ultimate mystery that surrounds us on all sides and that we believers call "God" isn't something distant and far away. He is with each and every one of us. How can I know? Is it possible to reasonably believe that God is with me if I haven't had any personal experience however small?

Ordinarily, we Christians have not been taught to perceive the presence of the mystery of God within us. Therefore, many imagine Him in some undefined abstract place in the universe. Others seek Him by worshiping Christ present in the Eucharist. Quite a few try to hear Him in the Bible. For others, the best way is Jesus.

The mystery of God undoubtedly has its ways to make itself present in each life. But one could say that in the current culture, if we don't experience Him within ourselves in some way, it will be hard for us to find Him outside. On the contrary, if we perceive His presence within ourselves, it will be much easier for us to trace His mystery in our surroundings.

Is it possible? The secret is, above all, knowing how to be with our eyes closed and in peaceful silence, welcoming with a simple heart that mysterious presence that encourages and sustains us. It's not about thinking about that, but "welcoming" the peace, life, love, forgiveness...that comes to us from our innermost being.

It is normal, as we enter our own mystery, to meet our fears and worries, our hurts and sorrows, our mediocrity and our sin. We should not fret but remain in the silence. The friendly presence who is in our innermost depths will soothe, free, and heal us.

Karl Rahner, one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century, states that, in the midst of the secular society of our times, "this experience of the heart is the only one through which the Christmas message of faith can be understood: God has become man." The ultimate mystery of life is a mystery of kindness, forgiveness, and salvation that is within us -- within each and every one of us. If we receive Him in silence, we will know the joy of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teresa Forcades and Esther Vivas: "The challenge is to turn this social majority that is suffering the consequences of the crisis into a political majority"

By Alex Gil Lara (English translation by Rebel Girl)
December 15, 2013

They are two of the most visible leaders of Procés Constituent in Catalonia, but their thesis doesn't stop at the sovereignty demand, but rather they argue that capitalism is incompatible with real radical democracy. This Monday they are presenting their book Sin miedo ("No Fear") in Madrid.

The PhD in Public Health from the University of Barcelona, Teresa Forcades, a Benedictine nun at the monastery of Sant Benet de Montserrat, and the journalist and political activist Esther Vivas converse in the book Sin miedo that is being presented this Monday, December 16th, in the Teatro del Barrio in Madrid. The two agree on the initiative for the Procés Constituent, a movement that is seeking to create the most unified candidacy possible which will run in the next Catalan regional elections. In the book, they go over the causes of the crisis, the delegitimization of the political and economic system, repression and criminalization of protest, the expansion of civil disobedience, alternatives to the current regime, the new politics and the rise of nationalism in Catalonia.

The book is titled Sin Miedo. "No Fear"...of what?

Esther Vivas: Well, what we've seen for a while is that power wants a society of fear, for people to be afraid of change or of imagining that another system is possible. Indeed, apathy, resignation, and fear represent the great victory of the capitalist system, making us believe that we can't change things. It's the message, the discourse with which we've always been inoculated. These are false truths, the myths upon which the system is based: "Nothing can be changed, there is no alternative". But today, in the current crisis, more and more people realize that the system is broken, that capitalism is incompatible with life, freedom, democracy, justice, with people's basic rights. Capitalism does business and the crisis unmasks the system. From here, there is an urgent need to change things. Health care, education, housing, food ... all these can't be a business in the hands of capital, of companies, but have to be universal basic rights. That fear they wanted to put into us, is now beginning to change sides.

Teresa Forcades: No fear that the organized struggle for an alternative to capitalism could lead us to a worse situation than the one we have. Chances are that it would lead us to a situation which, although it would be nothing ideal, would be much better than the current one in terms of respect for basic rights and freedoms. In Iceland, for example, they don't have paradise, but they stood their ground and now they don't have the debt that we have.

This fear you're talking about, does it serve as an instrument of control in our society?

TF: I think there are two kinds of fear that are socially relevant now. One is the fear of being without work or being homeless or undocumented. That fear is due to a real cause and must be respected. You can't encourage people to individually fight for a better world because they won't succeed and will pay a very high price. But fighting alone or in isolation is one thing -- which I don't recommend -- and organizing politically is quite different. That's the second fear: that this organization might end badly. I think this second fear isn't due to any real cause. I think it's due to alienation that we should get shed of the sooner the better. If we do, no one will stop this revolution.

EV: The repressive measures that are approved either by the Catalan government or the Spanish government, show they can't control the situation the easy way. Because the people are becoming aware, mobilizing and being disobedient, the criminalization strategy is the response. The Penal Code is amended, the Public Safety Act, etc. This is another example of the need the powers have to control the situation. Their greatest victory is making us believe we can't change anything, but with the emergence of the indignados movement (the "outraged") and the depth of the crisis, people are beginning to see the need to change things.

Do you think the capitalist system is incompatible with democracy?

EV: Totally. This is another myth of the system: capitalism is synonymous with democracy. The idea is that democracy is only possible with capitalism, but instead the system does not allow real true and radical democracy. We have numerous examples. When the people take to the streets, demonstrate, hold an escrache [small, targeted picket protest] or surround Congress, they're called anti-democratic, coup supporters, filoetarras [ETA lovers] ... The Government's response to the emancipatory and fully democratic aspirations of society is repression and fear. This on the one hand, and on the other, in 2011, we saw how there have been coup d'etats by the markets. The financial elites replaced Berlusconi with Monti, a technocrat, and Papandreou with Papademos, another technocrat. When capitalism comes through the door, democracy goes out the window. They are incompatible systems and this is increasingly apparent to a great number of people.

TF: Yes it is, because, contrary to its official argument, capitalism is not for freedom but for strict regulation which protects the interests of the richest people at the expense of the survival possibility of many millions and at the expense of the welfare of the majority. For example, this week I read in the New York Times that since the fall of the Berlin Wall -- since capitalism has been without a rival on the international level -- more than 3,000 international treaties have been signed aimed at protecting the interests of large multinational against governments. In Namibia, for example, the government has failed to implement the anti-tobacco laws that its parliament adopted because Phillip Morris has sued it for threatening its interests.

Throughout the book, you argue that social change is unstoppable. How can that change be promoted?

TF: I think it will only be if two conditions are met. One is the activation of political protagonism, ie, lose the fear and get organized. The second is unity in diversity -- not pretending to form a homogeneous front, being able to join with people who come from different political, social, and national traditions and sensibilities, to carry out the break from the current model.

EV: First, by proposing alternatives. To be able to assert other policies -- that  different system -- the recovery of democracy involves becoming aware of who wins and who loses from the current situation. Organizing, fighting, mobilizing, committing disobedience ... these are all essential tools and elements to change things. Regaining democracy involves getting outraged. This is the key. And the crisis, although it leads to a situation of social bankruptcy, social tragedy, also offers the opportunity for society to realize the undemocratic nature of the capitalist system, the subordination of policy to economic and financial interests. I think it's the first step to changing things. Awareness is essential to move to action and work with that goal.

It doesn't seem like that's the current dynamic.

EV: Social movements are cyclical and we had an outbreak here, a boiling up of dissatisfaction, of outrage in May 2011 and the following months. Now we're in a different time of the protests, but I think we're in the same cycle of struggles. Today the political class is in great disrepute. The current political system, the institutions, are delegitimized and this offers the opportunity to change things. Bipartisanship is in crisis. When we look at Greece which, in a way, is a mirror of what's happening here, we see that the party system has broken down. More so here in Catalonia, especially with the crisis of the state model and the rise of sovereignism and the independence movement. This questioning opens a space. This is the challenge. I think that today there are many more people who have become aware of the situation than before the crisis and the emergence of 15-M. In my environment, I see many people, not very politicized, who are seeing how friends, relatives, neighbors are having trouble making ends meet, are without work, without income, evicted, etc. The impact of the crisis in everyday life is making them aware. You have to use this to explain the real causes of the crisis. And today, it's not just a handful saying "this is a racket, not just a crisis", it's many more. The challenge is to turn this social majority that suffers the consequences of the crisis in a political majority. Hence the importance of demanding, like right now in Catalonia, the need for a constitutional process, proposing policy alternatives to end the hegemony of a few who monopolize power to their benefit.

What does Procés Constituent entail for the current political landscape?

EV: It proposes a perspective of breaking away from the current institutional and policy framework. Reappropriating policies, the future, using the stage to bring the right to choose, transcending the prudish sovereignism Mas wants, that only proposes a free Catalonia. Mr. Mas also wants a constitutional process but done from above by the political and economic elites of the country. We have to use the debate on independence, on the national question, to be able to say we want to decide everything and we want to take this independence to its logical conclusion. This debate, Convergence or Union, won't guarantee it. Procés Constituent wants a free Catalonia, but also one that is free of poverty, evictions, misery, unemployment, hunger, corrupt politicians, thieving bankers. It wants to be able to decide everything. We have to equip ourselves with a framework that is decided by all the Catalan people. This may seem very abstract, but in some countries in Latin America there have been constitutional processes that have generated a new constitutional framework from popular participation. They're processes that in some cases have had, it's true, contradictory outcomes and have generated significant debate on the left. In any case, these experiences show us that change is possible. We have to learn from their successes and mistakes. A similar case might be Iceland, where the crisis followed a classical leftist government which failed to embody the hopes for change and renewal that society demanded and that had brought them to power. The grassroots Constitution froze. It faltered against the pressures of the European Union. The lesson is that the old left won't get us out of this crisis. Either we organize in a broad sense, or there's no alternative.

TF: Strictly speaking "constitutional process" means the process by which a new constitution is drafted and adopted. At present, in Catalonia, the growing social unrest caused by the cutbacks policies is being channeled toward the goal of independence. We believe that this is insufficient and we want to use the historical moment to push for break away change from the current system, both politically and socio-economically. Specifically, we have begun to organize from the grassroots in regional and sectoral meetings. We currently have about 110 assemblies and some 46,000 members. If we grow and consolidate enough, we will foster a united candidacy for the upcoming regional elections. If the candidacy obtains a majority, we will convene a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution for a Catalan Republic and subsequently submit it to popular approval by referendum.

Does the current democratic framework allow social change?

EV: The current framework, formally, allows you to present yourself for election. Mobilize yourself, but now we see that when anger overflows because real democracy is required, it's repressed. In theory, the system guarantees rights which, in practice, it doesn't allow. We see this every day, on issues such as the right to housing. There are thousands of empty homes and thousands of families are being or have been evicted. Current social rights are the result of a struggle. Nobody will ever give us anything. Stoppping the cutbacks, this social emergency to which they've led us, and getting social improvements will be achieved through social mobilization and disobedience. Throughout history, disobedience has been key to achieving victories. If women have the right to vote it's because the suffragettes were disobedient, if military service was eliminated it's because a number of resisters went to jail, etc. Capitalism doesn't allow a number of rights; what is needed is winning them and imposing a different social system, a different model that breaks with the current system, from an anti-capitalist perspective of rupture.

Monday, December 16, 2013

While Pope Francis keeps the door shut, more women seek ordination

In September of this year, Juan Arias, a journalist for the Spanish newspaper El País, started rumors that, even though Pope Francis had reiterated his predecessor John Paul II's assertion that the door was closed on the question of women's ordination, there might be a route open for the pontiff to appoint the first woman cardinal. Although the Vatican immediately denied these assertions, the media swirled with the speculation and names of prominent Catholic laywomen who might be suitable candidates.

This month, in addition to his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which again put the lid on women's ordination with the pope's assertion that "the reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion" (EG 104), Pope Francis quashed the woman cardinal notion in an interview with La Stampa's Vatican Insider, saying, "I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalised'. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism."

In our view, Pope Francis continues to fail in his explanations on this issue. How is it that ordaining men doesn't "clericalise" them, while ordaining women would? How do you "value" women short of true and complete equality, when power and decision-making ability in the Church ultimately rests with the ordained while women are denied the sacrament of Holy Orders? As long as the current system exists and women cannot be pastors, bishops, cardinals, and, yes, pope, women will not have real power in the Church and they will be de facto second-class citizens. All the romantic theological notions about Mary Mother of God being "greater" than the bishops, and male priests being the "Spouse" of the (female) Church cannot obscure this fundamental reality. Either the Pope needs to explain specifically how he plans to give women real authority in the Church -- real "value" as in "equal worth" because, of course, the patriarchy has always "valued" women who serve it faithfully and silently, or he needs to be quiet on this issue until he has something to say that doesn't deepen the existing wounds.

Meanwhile, away from the papal centers of power, the movement to ordain Roman Catholic women to the priesthood continues unabated. Women are not waiting for Pope Francis to revise his theology of women in the Church; they are being ordained in the line of apostolic succession and leading communities of Catholics who are looking for a more inclusive worship experience. We have already reported on the women who were ordained in April (1 priest), May (3 priests), and June (5 priests, 3 deacons). Now we will give an update on the rest of the 2013 women ordinands, including some earlier ordinations we didn't cover.

February 2013

On February 9, 2013, at the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, Ohio, Bishop Joan Houk of Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained Rev. Beverly Bingle a priest and Ann Poelking Klonowski a deacon.

Before seeking ordination, Beverly Bingle, who retired in 2011 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, served in numerous capacities including pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament parish. She had also worked as a director of religious education. Rev. Bingle holds a B.A. (The Ohio State University) and M.A. (Bowling Green State University) in English, an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry (Marygrove College) and a Doctor of Ministry (Ecumenical Theological Seminary). Asked by the local press why she was pursuing the priesthood, Bingle responded, "I got called. It starts with God. You know how whenever you're prompted to do something, you get the feeling it’s the right thing to do." She said she is not concerned about excommunication and believes she has simply failed to obey an unjust law. "I would not consider myself excommunicated," Bingle told the Toledo Blade. "In my opinion, my conscience tells me I am still a good practicing Catholic in good standing." Rev. Bingle is now pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Community which meets at Unity of Toledo. To the Sunday evening Mass at that location, the community has recently added a Saturday evening Mass and a Sunday morning Mass at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. Sundays at the Interfaith Chapel of Toledo Campus Ministry. "No one will be excluded from communion," Rev. Bingle promises. Her homilies are published regularly on Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan's Blog.

September 2013

On September 7,2013, Ann Poelking Klonowski who had been ordained a deacon during the same February ceremony when Rev. Bingle was ordained a priest, was herself ordained a priest by Bishop Joan Houk in a ceremony at the Brecksville (Ohio) United Church of Christ.

Rev. Klonowski is a teacher who is currently coordinating a literacy program for urban first-graders. She has a degree in education from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in theology from John Carroll University. She spent more than 20 years teaching in Catholic high schools and colleges and another 15 years working for the Cleveland diocese. Klonowski, who hails from Independence, OH, says she has been called to the priesthood. "I'm here to serve the people of God," she told The Plain Dealer. She said that she considers herself a faithful Catholic. Against the official Roman Catholic Church's argument that women cannot be priests because Jesus did not ordain any women, Rev. Klonowski tartly responds, "Jesus didn't ordain any men, either." She says that this is simply not in the Bible. Rev. Klonowski, who is married and the mother of two children and a grandmother, says she plans to use her priesthood to lead house liturgies in her home. "I will keep my day job. We are worker priests. We're not subsidized by the diocese. We depend on ourselves for our income."

On September 15, 2013 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, New York, Mary Theresa Streck was ordained a priest by Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. In the same ceremony, Maureen McGill, of St. Petersburg, FL, and Mary Sue Barnett, of Louisville, KY, were ordained as deacons.

Rev. Streck was first called to religious life as nun, becoming a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet at the age of 17 and staying with the order 18 years until she fell in love with, and married, a Catholic priest, the late Jay Murnane. The couple, who sought dispensation from their vows, founded and ran the Ark Community Charter School in Troy, New York. Streck says she wanted to be ordained "to facilitate bringing people together to celebrate Eucharist and all celebrate Eucharist together. We are all saying the words of Consecration and all praying together in a community of equals." Rev. Streck is now pastoring the Inclusive Catholic Community of Albany which meets irregularly for Mass at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Albany.

As for the newly ordained deacons, Maureen McGill is a teacher and mentor in feminist spirituality connected with the Atman Center in St. Petersburg (Pinellas Park), Florida. She has a J.D. in Law and a Masters in Pastoral Studies. She is a retired attorney and has spent most of her legal career advocating for abused and neglected children. Mary Sue Barnett went on to be ordained a priest in December and biographical details about her can be found further down.

On September 22, 2013 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Irene Senn was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest by Bishop Regina Nicolosi. In her homily, Bishop Nicolosi instructed Rev. Senn, "I know you are aware of the awesome responsibility to lead the community in the celebration of these great mysteries. And don’t believe those who say you cannot function in persona Christi because you are a woman. Both you and the community will represent our brother Jesus, every time you celebrate the Eucharist, as we do today." She urged Senn to "go to your brothers and sisters, go to your community and let them feed you."

Rev. Senn says her journey to ordination began many years ago. She received a Masters in Divinity from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee in 1992. Before her decision to become a Roman Catholic woman priest, Senn served for over 20 years as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation for the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Milwaukee. She and her husband Bob have four children and eight grandchildren.

October 2013

On October 19, 2013, Helen Moorman Umphrey was ordained a priest at Sophia Christi Community in Portland, Oregon, by Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Olivia Doko. In a brief statement of thanks posted in the community's newsletter, Umphrey expressed special gratitude to Bob Larroque, a male deacon in the official Roman Catholic Church who decided to retire from active ministry "until women were given an opportunity to be involved in diaconal and priestly ministry." She also thanked the community's current pastor, Rev. Toni Tortorilla, for mentoring her.

Rev. Umphrey is also a former nun, having entered the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio in her teens, where she remained for 26 years. She has served as a teacher, principal, parish music minister, and in administration for the community. She is married and lives in Battle Ground, WA where she has served in the parish as a Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Associate for 25 years. She is now retired, but continues many Catholic/Christian group processes from her home. She has a BA from the University of Dayton, and an MA in Pastoral Ministry from St. Mary's University in Winona, WI.

December 2013

On December 8, at the Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan ordained Mary Sue Barnett of Louisville to the priesthood. Denise Menard Davis and Betty Smith of Louisville, Mary Weber of Indianapolis, and Ann Harrington of Greenville, NC were ordained to the diaconate in the same ceremony.

Rev. Barnett who is married and the mother of two children, has taught at several Catholic institutions, including Presentation Academy, Assumption High School, Spalding University and St. Catharine College. She will begin offering liturgy on She December 21st at First Unitarian Church on Fourth Street in Louisville. Barnett has a Master’s in Religious Studies and a Master’s in Biblical Studies. She mentors a young adult faith activist group called Revealing Sophia’s Truth and is an active campaigner for the ratification of the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Denise Menard Davis of Louisville, a wife, mother and grandmother, brings the experience of having taught and served high school and university students in Kentucky and California. Ann Harrington of Greenville, NC, has been married for 36 years and is a mother to four sons, a spiritual director and community builder. Betty H. Smith, 79, of Louisville has taught in local Catholic elementary schools and served as principal at Mother of Good Counsel and St. Barnabas. She has four children, three stepchildren, 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Mary Weber of Indianapolis is a wife, mother and grandmother who served as a pastoral associate, a social worker and hospital administrator.

Healing wounds

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
December 15, 2013

Matthew 11:2-11

Jesus' actions left John the Baptist baffled. He was expecting a Messiah who would extirpate sin by imposing God's strict judgment, not a Messiah devoted to healing wounds and alleviating suffering. From prison in Machaerus he sends a message to Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come, or must we wait for another?"

Jesus answers with his life as prophet-healer: "Tell John what you are hearing and seeing: the blind see and the disabled walk, the lepers are clean and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them." This is the true Messiah -- the one who comes to alleviate suffering, heal life, and open a horizon of hope for the poor.

Jesus feels sent by a merciful Father who wants a more dignified and happy world for all. So, he devotes himself to healing wounds, curing ailments and liberating life. And that's why he asks everyone to "be merciful as your Father is merciful."

Jesus doesn't feel he has been sent by a stern Judge to judge sinners and condemn the world. So he doesn't frighten anyone with judging gestures but offers sinners and prostitutes his friendship and forgiveness. And so he asks everyone to "judge not and you shall not be judged."

Jesus never heals arbitrarily or purely for sensationalism. He heals moved by compassion, seeking to restore the life of these sick, beaten down and broken people. They are the first who are to experience that God is a friend of dignified and healthy life.

Jesus never emphasizes the prodigious nature of his healings, nor does he think of them as an easy recipe to eliminate suffering in the world. He presents his healing activity as a sign to show us, his followers the way we are to act to make way for that humanizing project of the Father which he called the "kingdom of God."

Pope Francis states that "healing wounds" is an urgent task: "I see clearly that 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...That's the first thing: healing wounds, healing wounds." Then he talks about "taking responsibility for the people and accompanying them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor." He also speaks of "walking through the dark night with people, knowing how to dialogue and even descending into their night, into the darkness, but without getting lost."

When entrusting his mission to the disciples, Jesus doesn't imagine them as doctors, hierarchs, liturgists or theologians, but as healers. Their task will be twofold: proclaim that the Kingdom of God is near and heal the sick.