What would Jesus be doing?
Rev Suzanne Cooke applauds the forthright honesty of what the Pope has been saying, and wonders where Jesus would be in the light of the current Syrian refugee crisis.
The Pope is being contentious again! At a week-long seminar in Rome he told 154 new bishops that people can smell out ‘lying spellbinders’ and ‘dare I say it trendy priests.’ He also told them they that should not be drawn into playing a numbers game with new vocations - the Catholic church is suffering with too few priests coming forward for ordination.
I was fascinated by this news article, published in the Catholic Herald online (catholicherald.co.uk September 16) when it landed on my Facebook page a few days ago.
Firstly, I really admire anyone who is so very willing to go against the tide of opinion and say what they feel God is calling them to say, even when they know it will make them more than unpopular with those around them. I have always admired Pope Francis for his very obvious courage in saying the things others have never had the courage, or vision, to say. This seems to be another of those occasions. In an institution such as the Catholic Church I can only imagine just how hard it must be to begin to instigate cultural change in the way he has.
My second reason for being drawn to this article is that it hints at something I’ve been thinking about recently. As I am sure you all know, the world is at this very moment experiencing a crisis – a crisis of enormous human significance – and, having recently travelled to Paris, a crisis that sits at our very door step. The war in Syria is creating a tidal wave of human despair. Displaced families leaving everything behind, risking their lives to find safety and hope – it is a problem on a global scale.
And I wonder - I wonder what Jesus would have to say about this horrific global catastrophe? Quite a lot I think! Maybe he would have been on the beaches of Greece pulling people out of the water. Maybe he would have been on the streets of any number of European cities giving families food, finding them places to stay, providing medicines for children and pregnant mothers. Or maybe he too would have been in a boat, on the Mediterranean, comforting those around him, bringing hope and peace.
We will never know – but he WOULD have been doing something!
I think the ‘people’ Pope Francis talks about, the ones that don’t want ‘lying spellbinders’ or ‘trendy priests’, I think they too believe Jesus would have been with the refugees, or the homeless, or drug addicts, or women trafficked into sexual slavery, or men trafficked for their labour – I really believe that ‘people’ know that that is where Jesus would have been.
And genuinely, I really understand! Our situation is so very different, we don’t have refugee camps on our borders and we really don’t see the sea of humanity that is trafficked into our towns and cities – but they are there, hidden, but there.
I wonder if we too stopped playing the numbers game and started being in the places Jesus would have been I wonder how that might change our lives, the lives of our churches and the lives of our church communities.
I wonder what the first step on a journey like that might look like?
The above image of the Calais refugee camp is courtesy of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on www.flickr.com
Rev Suzanne Cooke is the priest-in-charge of the Upper Tas Benefice in South Norfolk and the founder of Soul Circus, a regular creative, experimental service supported by the Diocese of Norwich and the Youth Task Force. You can find out more at www.soulcircus.org.uk.
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