“I see the church as a field hospital after a 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 (2013).

To me, this statement from Pope Francis immediately implies that the Church should be a place of refuge and security; a place which can be sought in times of emergency, distress and need. He went on to comment that “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules”, indicating a feeling that we need to help those in front of us – the real people who seek and need refuge through the help of the Church. Rather than focussing on doctrine, we should help those who come to seek help on an individual basis, treating each case with ‘nearness and proximity,’ rather than being a remote entity bound by two thousand years of ‘red tape’.

The world in which the church now exists is radically different from that in which it was founded. Pope Francis went on to say, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently” – he clearly believes that the Church must speak to the hearts of individuals, as Jesus did, not to condemn, but to support and show all the way of salvation, taking each case which it faces in context, in order to better understand the patient in need of ‘healing’ and to better fulfil the servant ministry and example that Jesus modelled while on earth.

Clearly, Jesus is the foremost example of the Church as servant. In Luke 22:27, it is written “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” Similarly, in Matthew 20:28, it is written “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Here we are reminded that Jesus is the ultimate servant, He did not come to earth to condemn, but to help those who needed it most to achieve salvation. We are reminded that Jesus was in many ways a revolutionary, working with those who were outcasts in society to help them to find fulfilment through the one true God. In Matthew 20:28, we are also reminded of Jesus’ sacrificing nature – His death is seen as the ultimate act of service, laying down his life for the salvation of all.

In my experience as a teacher, I also believe that my job is to serve the students that I teach. As a form tutor, my role it to enable the young people in my pastoral care to fulfil their potential academically, socially and morally. I think that this is best achieved not by imposing my own beliefs in a rigid and strict way, but by carefully guiding them towards their own conclusions by teaching and example, in the context of a Christian school. I feel that the model of the Church as Servant has enabled me to reflect on my own practice and to consider how I work to ‘heal the wounds’ of the young people that I serve. The motto of our school is ‘prayer and service’, I believe that part of working in a Christian school is not only to serve the children, but also to serve the community in which I work, to share God’s vision for the world.

Whilst one drawback of the church’s role as a Servant is that it could simply become a community of activists without faith, becoming indistinguishable from other charitable organisations. However, I believe that viewing the Church in this way best enables us to fulfil the mission that Christ has given to us. As Jesus says in Luke 4:43, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose”.  Jesus called the disciples to continue His work in spreading the message of the Good News to others. Moreover, Lumen Gentium reminds us of our lives being vocations, therefore it would seem that if we serve others and help to heal physical, social and emotional wounds, we will be doing God’s work, which makes our serving of others and act of prayer.

Overall, I consider that the Church is a place which should provide those in need with guidance, help and support. A place which is a refuge in the metaphorical battlefields that we face in our everyday lives. Our mission is to serve others regardless of race, culture or religion. Through our acts of service to others, much like Jesus invited his disciples to follow him, we invite those around us to share in the Kingdom of God.

Tom D

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