The Field Hospital

Have you ever heard a real moral sermon? I have to admit that in my now long time as a regular visitor and celebrant of services I could not remember one. A moral sermon is a sermon in which the listeners are told what to do and what not to do. So there are clear instructions from the pulpit. When listening to today’s long gospel (Mt 5:17-37) one has the impression that Jesus‘ Sermon on the Mount is a moral sermon. At least there are clear and rather drastic instructions on what to do and what not to do. Jesus interprets the Jewish law, and at first glance he seems to exacerbate it. He goes through a few central grievances and sins in human coexistence. He talks about murder, strife, adultery and perjury. Not only does Jesus condemn these things, but he expands the scope of the law. Not only the murder is reprehensible, but the emergence of an enmity towards a certain person. It is not just the argument that is harmful, but the lack of willingness to make up again. It is not only adultery that is bad, but even accepting sexual temptation. It is not perjury, i.e. lying uttered in court, that is punishable, but the intention to do so.

The word „moral sermon“ tends to evoke negative associations: someone wants to tell me how to live. Here I am to be deprived of my freedom to make my own decisions. A “threatening message” that has become proverbial is obviously being proclaimed here.

In the middle of today’s Gospel passage is the terrifying metaphor of severing the limbs of the body. What is meant here is an inner process: As soon as you notice that your soul is on the way to evil, you have to take countermeasures. In this case, it is better to separate yourself from what is leading you astray, from a habit, from your insistence on your rights, from a thought you have grown fond of, from a wrong way of life. Get over your pride and temptation.

When I heard the word cutting off a hand or taking out an eye, an image that Pope Francis used a lot came to mind. He speaks of the church as a „field hospital“. This hospital is a mobile infirmary where the wounded of war or disaster are taken. This is about quick medical decisions, about emergency care that is not squeamish because it takes place under time pressure. The aim is to save the wounded, even if this would require drastic emergency measures. The Pope says:
„A field hospital is the image I prefer to use to describe this ‚going church‘ because it is set up where the fighting is taking place. It’s not a solid house where everything is available and where you go to have your wounds, large and small, treated. It is a mobile first-aid facility, the emergency care that is needed so that the combatants do not die.”

Another drastic picture. Many will ask themselves whether our often unspectacular everyday life really has to be understood as a struggle. But there should be no doubt that there are wounds that need to be tended to. We know these wounds of the soul, the relationship, the family, the social structure: enmity, unreconciliation, infidelity, lies and deceit, crossing borders, insults, threats, violence, abuse, but also addiction or grief. How should these wounds be treated in the field hospital?

With that in mind, let’s take another look at the Sermon on the Mount. At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount it says that the crowds have gathered around Jesus. He looks to the people who seek healing, forgiveness, encouragement and wisdom from him. In view of the crowd, however, Jesus does not speak to „the people in general“, but he directs his words to his disciples. In his teaching words he instructs the disciples. They are supposed to continue his work later in the spirit of the kingdom of God. So the disciples are taught. To put it in the picture, it is a lecture for the doctors and nurses in the field hospital. And the basic style of the Sermon on the Mount is: “If you have understood how to deal with the wounds, if you have practiced this for yourself, if you have fought through your own inner struggles, then you can also teach this to others. You should be salt and light for the world, so that you can bring this salt and this light into the world, so that you can heal the wounds of this world and contribute to it.”

I’m thinking about a word that a prominent entrepreneur uttered in an interview. He said: „If a company boss tells me that he has a big problem in his company, then I have to tell him: You failed. Because every big problem was a small problem that you could have easily addressed. So if you don’t take care of the small problems that can become dangerous later, then you will have big problems later.” Now such a word from economic life will not simply transfer to human life. But I do believe that the core of the message of the Sermon on the Mount from today’s Gospel is definitely true. “Don’t worry until the big problem, the big transgression, the big harm is there. The great harm begins when you have not been mindful of what has been slowly growing inside you, in bad thoughts, feelings, words, or attitudes.” Whoever learns to care for oneself in this way, to be mindful of to act preventively in himself, even if it will cost him one or the other pleasant thing that has become a habit, whoever can take care of himself in this way can fulfill his task of healing, consolation, forgiveness, acceptance and reconciliation in the large field hospital. The church as a field hospital is therefore not a matter for professional pastors. Their number and their possibilities are too small considering enormous work to do. The service in the field hospital is a task for everyone who goes to school with Jesus, a task that is theologically described with the word „apostolate“.

The supposed moral sermon becomes something completely different. It will be a lesson, a further training course that is intended to build me up and make me mindful. It will be a qualification in moral thinking and acting that can be beneficial for myself as well as for those close to me.





Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s

%d Bloggern gefällt das: