“Get out of the Way”


A phrase often used in jails and, to some extent, here at PBMR is “humble yourself.”  In many ways, it means to get yourself “out the way”—to open yourself to something other than yourself.

As the Catholic Church, we are struggling with the sin of church leadership: priests, bishops, and the sexual abuse of minors. It is a violation against the most vulnerable among us and causes emotional and spiritual harm. It is also a breach of the trust.   

Some will leave the Church, and who can blame them, and others will remain. For those who remain, we must strive to reconstruct a Church that seeks to repair the harm done. 

Richard Rohr, an author and lecturer, says that a litmus test for a true spirituality is whether you are the focus of conversion. Is it keeping you listening for God? Is it keeping your own feet to the fire? We cannot deny the pain or wait for better days. Transformation will only happen when we touch the wounds, when we give space to the pain and suffering. Spirituality is about what we do with the pain. 

After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were confronted with the sacred wounds that still were visible in the resurrected Jesus. Unless the disciples were willing to touch the wounds of Jesus, they would have continued hoping for and expecting a savior who would dominate and rule. 

The transformation of the Catholic Church must come from the suffering and pain that we have both inflicted and suffered. The response cannot only be another set of policies that are stricter or a more expansive. 

A year or so ago, I was asked if I could help with something that happened at one of the Catholic schools.  One of the students had posted a racist comment on Facebook.  It was shared openly and caused great pain and suffering within the school and the community. The school administration was seeking ways to respond. I suggested discussing the incident using restorative justice practices. The postings made on Facebook merely highlighted what had existed and continued to cause great harm. The school administration took another way and expelled the students involved.  They refused to touch the wounds. They refused to allow the humiliating wound to become sacred and sanctifying.

Transformation never come easily; it is always the result of suffering. It happens only if we are truly willing to get ourselves “out the way” and are willing to touch the wounds and allow them to become sacred wounds.

This should not be unfamiliar to us; it is what we do each time we gather around the table at Eucharist. We celebrate the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Paschal mystery, because only when we are willing to touch the woundedness of one another, will we become a new creation.