Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium is still speaking of workers: ministers from bishops to lay volunteers. Do these qualities seem to hit the mark? I’ve seen some in myself, and certainly have noticed them in my colleagues, active parishioners, and in the clergy:
88. The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command.
Quite often pastoral relationships are messy. And the needy, even the nudges of the Holy Spirit, cannot be disengaged easily.
Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.
I do wonder if we place insufficient trust in God’s ability to provide for us. We jealously guard time off and time away. But what we seek is the natural rest and time to recollect ourselves. God can work in any way through that to provide for us. And for those of us who are not bishops, we have supervisors who can and should be discerning in their care of workers. Additionally, those of us in the trenches should also look out for one another. It is our place to make messes with pastors and bishops if we see in colleagues the signs Pope Francis lists above or those symptoms of discouragement and darkness he’s mentioned previously.