Monday, February 6, 2012

Learning to heal with wounds

It’s a given that our human nature comes with many experiences of pain, suffering and woundedness.  No one is spared from this reality.  We don’t have to look outside of ourselves. We will (if we are humble and honest enough) see that within our very selves is a landscape of wounds, some inflicted by others, but many caused by ourselves.

But what separates the ‘men/women from the boys/girls” is what we do with our wounds.  Some have chosen to ignore them, and many have caused even more wounds in others because of them.  It’s called victimizing.  But there are also those (not too many of them, apparently) who dare to use them to transform themselves, and in so doing, transform also the world around them. 

The secular society calls it by a few names.  Some call it recovery, some call it therapy.  But in the Christian tradition, there is a specific name to it.  It’s called redemption through forgiveness.  And it’s one of the hardest things that each of us needs to do, as well as the most important thing that we can ever do – for ourselves and for the world.

"The Incredulity of St Thomas" by Italian Baroque master Carravagio c.1601-1602

The demonstrative point of this happens after the resurrection event, where the terrified apostles are found huddled in the room where there resurrected Lord walks right in and greets them with nary a castigation, but rather, with a greeting of peace, and shows them his glorious wounds.

We don’t often speak about those wounds do we?  Few priests will venture to preach about the wounds of Christ, and what makes these wounds glorious.  Maybe it’s the way our culture has evolved.  The medical and beauty/aesthetics industries have come up with all sorts of methods to enable people to hide/mask/disguise and almost make disappear physical wounds from injuries and operations.  Perhaps this has given us the idea that we should be making disappear all our wounds, the physical as well as the emotional ones.  But not Christ.  In fact, what he does is that he extends his hands and his side to his friends who abandoned him on Calvary as a definitive display and proof of his divine forgiveness.  This forgiveness has a two-fold effect.  Not only are they forgiven, they are also now to be similar instruments of forgiveness for others, through a similar wounded-healed-forgiven-forgiver process.  In short, no one truly receives forgiveness if he himself is unwilling to extend a similar forgiveness. 

But handling our woundedness well is an art and skill that requires us to maintain a delicate balance.  Too much unthinking display easily turns ourselves into ego-clamoring maniacs.  We only have to look at the brazen displays of talk-show guests who want their 15 minutes of fame on national television, spilling out their broken history of who did what to whom in the past, shaming and discrediting others, sometimes turning themselves from being the injured party to becoming the one causing a new injury in the process.  Many new hurts can come forth from an impoverished sense of justice and righteousness. 

The other side of this balance spectrum can cause people to go into pity-parties, and that is I think, more common than the former case.  In both cases, problems abound. 

The balance is to know when to reveal, what to reveal, and to whom one should reveal.  Jesus didn’t go out to the town and do a massive show-and-tell, did he?  He knew that it was these huddled people who needed healing, and it was these very people who could spread the truth of divine love and forgiveness. 

The only way that we can handle our wounds well is when we mirror our lives as closely as possible with the Lord himself through prayer and contemplation.  The doxology at the Eucharistic Celebration gives us the essence.  It is Through Him, With Him and In Him that we gain access to God the Father union with the Holy Spirit.  But I have a suspicion that many Christians think that that (Jesus' complete and utter submission to the Father) was a one-off thing, and that we only need to view it from a distance, and appreciate it like as if we were respectfully admiring a beautiful piece of artwork in an art museum, standing at the velvet cord bollards. 

I’m currently reading “Models of the Eucharist” by Fr Kevin Irwin.  I was most glad to see him say very clearly that one of the purposes of celebrating the Eucharist is to “place paschal lenses on our eyes”.  "Paschal lenses" - what a beautiful image.  I caught that image immediately.  Along with Irwin, I believe that it is only when we allow the dying and rising of Christ to become the prism through which we view our lives, that the paschal mystery can then become the true measure of who we are and what we are about.

Most of us are unwilling to do that.  We want a perfect Church that has no problems, no scandals, no slow-acting authorities and no painful experiences.  We think that only then does worship become ‘good’.  We want sanitized worship.  How wrong we are.  Sometimes we forget that real life is truly messy and full of unexpected curve-balls being thrown at us.  So, we prefer to stand and observe (maybe even with arms akimbo) at the goings on at Eucharist from a safe, clinical distance.

But that is not true Catholic worship.  That’s being an observer or a spectator.  Catholicism is no spectator sport.  It requires of us to enter (yes, sometimes dragging our feet) into the mystery with Christ, so that everything can be seen through the eyes of Christ, and everything can be lived through the life of Christ within us.  And in doing so, we pray that all wounds, ours as well as those who have caused our wounds, can be healed through the wounds of Christ. 


  1. Beautiful post, Fr. Luke.

    Y'know, sometimes I can get SO angry over something, especially when some injustice is perceived. My reaction, after I've cooled down a bit, is to reflect on Jesus's own suffering and death; so un-merited, yet so necessary.

    Yes, it's so true. We want everything to be as perfect as possible - and that includes the church; and when it's not we take umbrage. I might be mistaken, but think it was Chesterton who, when asked, "what's wrong with the Catholic church?" replied: "I am."

    That kind of says it all.

    Peace and Joy,

    1. Hi Fr Luke,
      Thank you for this blog.Jesus Lives and so we live!:)

  2. "We will (if we are humble and honest enough) see that within our very selves is a landscape of wounds, some inflicted by others, but many caused by ourselves."

    The above is so true. Many of our wounds are self-inflicted. My guess is that many of us sweat over the small stuffs that are happening around us. We focus too much on ourselves - how I feel, will I be embarrassed, how I look etc. - rather than on being Christian, eg. compassion and love.

    I believe once we learn to let go and let live, we will be more alive to Christ's presence.

  3. The opening lines of your blog opened up afresh the memory of the excruciating pain I experienced after a nasty fall just a few days ago. When the body is a landscape of pain, the immediate response is to obliterate it, have a complete shutdown – but if we do move out of ourselves and focus our attention away from self, our spirits begin to expand in the midst of the pain. This “expanded” state helps us to focus on the necessity to explore, to feel the wounds or the wounded parts so as to gauge and know the extent of the ‘woundedness’. In this touching, it is somewhat a claiming back of the bruised, bloodied and ugly parts as one’s own. And that, I believe is the first step towards healing – knowing and acknowledging one’s wounds.

    Reflecting thus on what you have written, it would seem that – similarly, if one were to really touch and explore and search into our emotional and psychological or spiritual wounds, one gains awareness of oneself, - one’s personality characteristics, one’s talents, weakness, attitudes (narrow and selfish/generous and accommodating, etc) This will definitely be painful - but this pain of consciousness, of self knowledge would go a long way in paving the path for forgiveness of self and of others…..perhaps leading to transformation and healing. In doing so, we are probably making ourselves very
    “vulnerable” to God and I think this is the fearsome part. Because if we acknowledge our inadequacies, our weaknesses, our “wounds” then there is a demand or need for change in our lives. We may not want to do so as we are comfortable and want to remain secure, -‘standing at the velvet cord bollards’( as you said) So putting on Pascal Lenses or the real ‘Contact’ lenses as you have implied is not for those of us who are unready for change or we call it self-sacrifice.

    Yet, Julian of Norwich ( I think) said something very beautiful and encouraging in one of her writings – that while God is quite proud of and happy with our strengths, for they are the parts of our lives in which we have allowed His action and which build His Kingdom, He loves our weaknesses more because they need His love more.

    God bless you, Fr

  4. Is it true that the Queen of Sheba was "breathless" when she was faced with the Wisdom of Solomon?

    I have the same experience reading your blog!

  5. Yes and thanks for the blog. A truly compelling and healing message for Christians. We are sometimes put into a room, like where once Jesus shows his wound but we should never forget the wider message, the wound itself is NOT it. Even Jesus did not bloat or mourn on a wound itself. St.Pio of Pietrelcina put on a glove and continue his duties. That is only a wound in society's short view. We need to take this wound in lessons of GOD in our body, in the way to mirror Jesus Christ experience and wider/deeper message. Why the pascal mystery? What GOD's message for us? What could we change in our life for others even if we are confined in a small room or any restrictions? This is apt rather than what St Paul warns us NOT TO; react as a man would by nature. This reading exposes beyond the WOUND as a true SIGN of GOD message to us and to each our mission "of GOD in us" even if our body/brains or work/living/experience does not comply as full. Never stray without GOD, have faith in GOD and we could breeze through our true missions like St Paul in every obstacle. We are weak without GOD but with GOD we are different. The deeper healing comes from GOD's promise and power, not from searching causes like what we "could not", NOR confinements, NOR life pickings, NOR system failings, NOR how others to us is, NOR limits of our mortal body and mind. That healing comes and more if we have GOD in us. Surely the wisdom in this WOUND reading is from GOD.

    == Glory is for GOD alone ==
    CharlesM, a Catholic