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Meeting People Where They Are (and Where I’ve Been)



Tess Nixon - published on 12/11/14

Pope Francis has it right: Christ came to heal the sick.

As I was driving my daughter and granddaughter to the mall recently, a popular song came on the radio. While not an avid listener of today’s pop tunes (I’m still back in the ‘80s), the lyrics of this particular song profoundly affected me. I listened attentively as the young female singer lamented about how she had to stay in a drug-and-sex-induced haze to keep from thinking about her lost love and how she had resolved to stay high for the rest of her life in order to forget that she’s missing this person.

The whole premise of the song was about numbing the mind to deaden the feelings of sorrow and loss, to turn to illicit, impersonal sex and drugs in order to accomplish this “living death.” What a tragic state!

Oh, well. It was just a song. But I found myself close to tears as I listened to the desolate words because I could well relate to that kind of hopelessness. I wanted to reach out and embrace this young woman, to assure her that there is Something so much more than the false palliatives of sex and drugs that will alleviate her despair and enliven her with a value beyond any earthly measure. But would she listen? Would she believe me?

I, too, had once been where she was. I didn’t believe, either, at first in those who tried to reach out to me in my past life. But through the loving persistence of others, and after coming close to hitting the bottom that finally broke my heart open enough to hear that still, small Voice that spoke to me with such convicting Love, I was at last put on the road to spiritual healing.

Hearing the words to this song made me realize how so many people are like the singer, lost in a world of self-centered pleasures trying to dispel the feelings of loneliness and its subsequent despair in living a life centered in self rather than one centered in Greater Love.

I thought of my six grandchildren – still so young and innocent despite the sex-and-violence saturated culture we live in today. My immediate response was visceral – to protect them at any cost from such desolation. It not only made me stop and think of ways I could shelter them, but of what I can do as a Catholic Christian to reach out to all persons who live life on the surface with no thought of taking their sorrow to a loving Father who wants to embrace and heal us all. To walk alone hurts; it’s like trying to traverse a great abyss on a tightrope in total darkness.

There has to be a way of reaching the hopeless lost in this sea of iniquity without condemning the person, as Christ would have us act and as Pope Francis exhorts us to do. This doesn’t mean that we should condone sinful living—of course not.  But – regardless of others’ beliefs (or non-beliefs), lifestyle, or political viewpoints – if we are to bring true healing to our world we must strive to be like Christ in our approach to all by reaching out from where we are to where they are, all judgment and condemnation aside, recognizing the aching human being beneath the sinful veneer.

Pope Francis has it right. Amid all the swirling controversy of the past Synod on the Family, held recently at the Vatican, and the opposing opinions – liberal, moderate, and traditional engaged in the media firestorm – Pope Francis’s quiet message rang out clarion-like: we must be like Christ who came not to heal the healthy, but the sick among us, stretching out our arms in welcome to embrace the person and love as He did on that hill at Calvary. 

Tess Nixon began her freelance writing career as a music reviewer for Music Connection magazine in the 1980s, as well as celebrity interviews and articles. She is the assistant to the Executive Director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in Washington, D.C. 

FaithPope FrancisSpiritual Life
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