Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:31-32)
You may have heard the saying, “Church is not a nursery for saints but a hospital for sinners.” There’s variations in songs and sermons proclaiming similar notions. It’s true, we all fall short and have sinned (Romans 3:23). So, truly, this should mean we all need a hospital for sinners, since we’re all sinners. But what does that look like in our own parishes?
This means we must be welcoming for all are welcome to the body of Christ, that is, the Church. This is not to say that all are worthy or that we can determine worthiness for only God can see one’s heart, but all are welcome to enter and seek repentance. No one should deny another entrance to a path to Salvation. We may enter, hear the Word, receive blessings, come to the sacrament of Confession.
Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and forsake them obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
The most important part of this hospital for sinners is the healing process. Imagine a sick person refusing medication or a person with a broken foot refusing a cast and continuing to walk on it despite the pain. Neither of these work for healing and doctors will refuse medicine to blatantly noncompliant patients.
Everyone is on a different healing path and is moving along those paths at different rates. We cannot judge the person, but at times the physician must judge a person’s decisions and counsel against poor choices.
Still, the hospital remains open to all who seek with a sincere heart to repent and seek redemption. Confession has no prerequisites but honesty and a desire to do better. Listening to the Word of God has no requirements but an open mind and heart and a desire for God’s Word to speak to oneself. Absent of those things, ‘hospital attendees’ are just visiting.
I’ve been there, just visiting. It’s okay if it happens sometimes, but regroup and be present to the Lord once more. The effort here counts! Even a relapsing patient is welcomed back to the hospital or rehab facility if they seem sincere to try again. It’s not an easy journey, but we must make it an honest one.
Imagine if we start seeing the Mass as an opportunity to heal and grow. Imagine if we see the Church as a hospital with the great mission of healing this world. What would that look like locally? What would that look like nationally, or globally?
We need Christ like our bodies need water (John 4:10-14). If we only knew how our souls thirst and yearned for Him! We are trapped in this physical world for now, but we need to remember our souls. We need to lift one another up in prayer and open our doors to administer to those in need. The path begins with listening to His Word, Confession, and repentance and it is open to all.