By Joe Bollig
One of the most dramatic scenes in the 1991 film “Backdraft” is when firefighter “Bull” McCaffrey confronts a deadly serial arsonist on a catwalk inside a burning building — and discovers that the arsonist is fellow firefighter and mentor “Axe” Adcox.
The catwalk partially collapses and Bull manages to catch Axe’s hand while dangling from the catwalk by his other hand.
“Let me go, Bull!” yells Axe, ashamed and unwilling to cause Bull’s death.
“You go — we go,” Bull yells — the firefighter’s battle cry of solidarity.
Although Axe has betrayed them all, Bull refuses to let go and save himself. Eventually, he loses his grip and the two men plunge into the fire.
“You go — we go” could also be a battle cry of the Catholic Church. The Christian faith is not individualistic but deeply communal. Like a firefighter, each Christian is called to live the faith — but not alone. We support each other.
This is true especially when Christians deal with difficult things regarding marriage, sexual desire and the family.
Jesus offended many people with his “hard sayings” while he walked the earth. The church continues Jesus’ ministry — and it, too, offends the world with its “hard teachings.” The church is sometimes judged to be out of step with the culture on marriage, sexual expression and family.
So, what about these hard teachings?
“To grasp the church’s ministry of teaching correctly, we also need to consider her pastoral nature. Pope Francis once famously likened the church to ‘a field hospital after a battle’,” according to “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the catechesis for the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 22-25 in Philadelphia.
The misuse of sexuality has deeply wounded individuals, families and society. The church, as a field hospital, seeks to bring the wounded to an encounter with the Divine Physician so they may avail themselves of the healing to be found within the community of the church.
“As they recover from the wounds of sin, Christians grow in holiness in every area of their lives, including their sexuality. When they fall short, they need to return to the mercy of God made accessible in the sacraments of the church,” notes the catechesis.
The demanding moral teachings of Jesus and his church presume in Christians a life of discipleship, prayer and commitment to Christian witness. They also presuppose this life is lived within the Christian community.
Conversion is a work in progress. We are all sinners and we all need “an environment of mutual support where moral growth and change can occur.”
That’s why celibacy and chastity are communal practices, not just an individual one. Persons who are single, divorced and same-sex attracted — indeed, all of us — are not told to “grit their teeth and suffer alone.”
Christians should “bear one another’s burdens.” As the catechesis says, “the bonds of friendship make the demands of discipleship bearable.”
Pope Francis has called all of us to accompany each other in the work of spiritual growth. It’s a solidarity that makes us say, “You go — we go!’
Editor’s Note: Catholics throughout the country have been invited to join in the 10-month preparation for the World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia. This reflection is based on the eighth chapter of the meeting’s catechesis “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”