A brother became tired of his community and the behavior of others often annoyed him. He decided, “I will go off somewhere by myself. Then I will neither talk nor listen and shall be at peace. This anger I feel will depart.” He went out into the desert and made his home in a cave.
One day he placed a water jug he had filled on the ground. It rolled over, spilling its content. He filled it again and it fell over again. When this happened the third time, he became enraged, took hold of the jug and smashed it against the rocks.
Calming down, he realized that anger had mocked him. “Here I am by myself and anger has beaten me. I will return to the community. Wherever we live, we need to work at being patient with God’s help.
This story is not unlike the desert saying: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”
Our faith is meant to be lived out in community. The calling to be a hermit is extremely rare, and only for those who so carry the life of the community within themselves that their absence only allows them greater time to pray for the community.
The community is also the most common object of our sin and the most common excuse or occasion for our sin. Love, forgiveness, kindness, sincerity – all of the virtues of community are easily the most difficult. It is common to refer to the parish Church as a “hospital.” It is, of course. This common saying can also lead to the mistaken notion that the priest is therefore the doctor and that he has some responsibility to heal us. This is a prescription for a dysfunctional parish.
The priest is a patient as much as any other parishioner. As a patient he has certain responsibilities. He extends medicine and bears witness to our confessions. He prays for our healing and counsels us as best he can. But Christ is the Great Physician. He alone heals. The cause of our disease is the broken state of our communion with Christ. In such a broken state our communion with those around us carries multiple symptoms of our illness.
Thus, we are constantly cautioned in Scripture to be patient with one another; to forgive one another; to bear one another’s burdens; to recognize the true nature of our communion with the body of Christ.
But it is the only hospital God has given us and our healing is there to be found.