So many wounds…

So many wounds… June 26, 2015Jesus carries His Cross
”Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases” Matt. 8:17.
Still meditating on my wounds. A couple of weeks ago I remembered two small incidents from my childhood which came to me again today, striking me sharply with a sudden realization. First, let me share the two little stories:

When I was about 10 years old, Daddy told me and my brother to clean up the “old room” of our home, an unfinished room on the top floor where we kept playthings, games, etc. As we started, Daddy and RJ came upon my rock collection which I kept in a shoebox, and began to laugh at me saying that we needed to throw away this bunch of old rocks. I was vastly offended. I valued those rocks. What they meant to me was a distinct interest in science. I had spent hours pouring through the gravel on our family driveway, locating unusual shapes, materials, some of the rocks with curious patterns or holes which made me think of fossils. I had reflected that these were small fragments of cliffs and mountains, washed smooth in quick-running streams. They were beautiful, mysterious parts of nature. My father and brother ridiculed me for the rocks. I remember thinking, “They don’t understand at all. They don’t understand me, and never will.” I think I convinced my father to let me keep the rocks, at least for the time being.

Then, in the 8th grade, I read a book called THE RED HEIFER, about a wild heifer who protected other members of her herd, showing courage to fight off wolves, to escape other dangerous situations, etc, eventually giving birth and stuggling to protect her calf. I was moved and inspired by her story and gave a book report on it to my 8th grade class to the widespread tittering and snickering about my “love for a cow.” The teacher said nothing. I realized what their reaction was and thought again to myself, “They don’t understand anything. They are so ignorant; they have no values. They will never understand me.”

Both incidents made me feel angry, isolated, contemptuous, distrustful, disappointed, hurt, disillusioned, rejected, alone. Above all, they made me think that I could not trust other people’s evaluations of me, my values, my feelings, or my decisions. I would manage, control, and evaluate events and issues in my life by myself. I already had a tendency to perfectionism and wanting to control my life, and these seemingly trivial incidents increased this tendency.

Now, the point of my telling you these stories is not to rehearse how I might have been wounded—though clearly I was. What struck me so forcibly this morning is that just as my brother, my father, my classmates wounded me, I myself have often wounded others without even realizing it. I am quite aware of the numerous times that my actions or unkind words have wounded others in significant or even seemingly trivial ways. But what pierced me this morning was the realization that I have been inflicting wounds throughout my life without having the least consciousness that I was doing so.

The conscious wounds I have inflicted, I have repented. I have apologized. I have repaired where possible. But how many walking wounded are there about whom I am oblivious? Because time has lapsed, I have no opportunity to go back. Like a rock thrown in a pond, casting ripples in all directions, those we wound go on to wound others.

In SOUL FOOD Talk #13, I wrote some deep reflections on original sin—and they are more than pertinent here:

When Adam fell, he skewed all of nature, wreaking havoc in the order of the whole universe. We did not obey God, our bodies do not obey us, Mother Nature goes off on its own tangents, etc. The harmony between heaven and earth was grievously damaged by original sin. We find war has broken out between the “angels of our better nature” (as Abraham Lincoln put it) with our desires, our thoughts, our inclinations, our appetites, etc. Who can rescue us from this quagmire of dissolution and distress? Only Jesus Christ! Help me, Lord, for I cannot help myself.

5. What I have pondered much in the last few years is the effect of original sin on individuals, the society of man, and on creation itself. Not one element of our world is free. Of course, with baptism, we enter sanctifying grace—the presence of the Holy Spirit—and enjoy the freedom of the children of God. But realize that we will never be totally free of the effects of original sin: “There are three debilitating effects of Original Sin: a darkening of the intellect, a weakening of the will, and a diminished unity of body and soul.” [http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/the-flesh-and-the-spirit.html].

A little further in the talk, I find this reflection:
11. “Second there is the effect [of original sin] on the relationship between human beings. Rather than being characterized by loving community our relationships now involve discord, hatred, lies, jealousy and so on. It is salient to note that in the first chapter after the fall comes the first murder. In addition descriptions of sin are commonly characterized by ways in which our horizontal relationships have become disordered as well as how the vertical relationship with God has been shattered (e.g. Mark 7:21-22; Galatians 5:19-21).

Clearly we are all skewed by original sin, our intellects darkened, our wills weakened. Only Christ can heal us. We read in Isaiah:

3 He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
4 Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God* and afflicted,
5 But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.

Where are we to go with so much suffering, our guilt for inflicting wounds on others, our own wounds? —into the wounds of Christ. By entering our own wounds, we can finally understand and enter the sufferings of Christ—his rejection, his loneliness, all the emotional traumas that humans can inflict on one another. Then we can finally enter the wounds of others, suffering with them and for them.

As I probed these thoughts during the Mass, I brought them to the Confiteor, I lay my guilt in the heart of Christ in the Kyrie eleison and asked Him to heal the untold victims of my harmful acts and words, those I injured as a child, as a teen, as an adult, for all the years of my long life, and to heal those wounded by those I wounded.

PRAYER
Jesus, we are so often conscious of those who hurt us,
but are so ignorant of those whom we hurt.
I place in your Sacred Heart right now
all those whom I have wounded, even in the most trivial of ways,
in order for You to forgive me.
I plead that You heal them
and all those whom they themselves have wounded.
Give me the sensitivity and the awareness
to guard my tongue, my eyes, my ears, my mind,
my body to avoid wounding others as I myself have been wounded.
Heal Your broken people, Lord,
especially those who don’t even realize the extent of their brokenness.

 

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Love, not “perfection” –Matt. 5:48

In his post on June 20, Charlie Johnston said: “Referencing the point of Scripture where we are exhorted to be “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect,” Fr. Dan said in the original Aramaic, that means be complete as our Father is complete. That is marvelous!”

I have been stewing over that word, “perfect”, for years, wondering what Jesus actually meant. It didn’t seem possible that He could mean literally perfect, because mankind is flawed, weak, and sinful, ultimately. Also, I personally am a perfectionist; only recently have I realized that this tendency is a disorder which needs to be monitored, to be healed. Recently I reviewed Catholic psychology, writing in my prayer journal:

“LOVE, NOT PERFECTION”
I’m a perfectionist– Holy Hour Scrutiny and Prayer
Jesus, I am confused. I realize that one disorder which, I suppose rises from my wounds, is obsessive-compulsive disorder in the form of perfectionism. When I fail to be perfect, I feel “sullied & smudged”. This propensity permeates my whole life, spiritual, emotional, professional, relational. I exhibit many of the symptoms which I read about: my poor ability to delegate, my constant feeling that “no one will do the work as I want it done,” my discomfort with those I live with whom I see as disorderly & messy, my obsession with being organized, my desire to control—all related to pride. My desire to control…is this not a form of “quality control”? To be sure of the outcome of any effort in which I am invested? I lack trust in the abilities or judgment of others. And when I fail to be perfect in some way, I suffer hurt pride.

At the same time, I remember wanting simply to be perfect from a young child, yet I can’t locate the wound from which I would feel anger, resentment, to which the perfectionism would be a defensive mechanism. [Last night I read “Psychology” and Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder on a Catholic Psychology website, and this is, I gathered, the considered cause of perfectionism—a ritual practice or life practice meant to serve as a defense mechanism to bury anger and resentment or to hide it from oneself http://www.chastitysf.com/ocd.htm

Also, what confuses me is that You, Jesus, said, “Be perfect, as Your heavenly Father is perfect.” In many ways my constant desire for perfection has served me well, leading most of my efforts to excellence in all the areas of my life. It has been the driving force for many accomplishments, including my spiritual life. Even as a child, I wanted to be a saint.

Please send Your Holy Spirit to me to reveal my wounds, to show me what I need to change, and to give me the courage to make these changes, above all to melt my rigidity, to soften my stiffness, to make my heart meek and humble. Help me to understand what You want of me.

As I continued to think on these things, I also reflected that the earlier post which I wrote, “Feeling Sullied & Smudged,” was a perfect description of how I feel when my spiritual actions are performed without perfect purity of intention—when I failed to reach the mark of “perfection,” my own high spiritual standards. I had read a piece by St. Catherine of Genoa which I felt captured the essence of this feeling:

“After God has given a soul the light in which she
perceives the truth that she cannot even will, and much less work, apart from Him, without always soiling and making turbid the clear waters of His grace, then she sacrifices all for Him and He takes possession of His creature, and both inwardly and outwardly occupies her with Himself, so that she can do nothing but as her sweet Love wills. Then the soul, by reason of its union with God, contradicts Him in nothing, nor does aught but what is pure, upright, gentle, sweet, and delightful,….”

This passage is so consoling. I perceived the truth that the soul can do NOTHING perfect, and that the remedy is to submit all in sacrifice to Him, all of which He accepts in love. To Him, full submission in love is perfection.

I had also read on the Catholic Psychology site:
“Salvation Depends on Love, not on Perfection
Christ chose ordinary men, not scholars and theologians, to be His Apostles and disciples. Why? To demonstrate that the Church He was establishing would grow through God’s grace, not through mere human intelligence. So keep in mind that your salvation depends on your willingness to grow in love, not on your human perfection.

“When you are praying and distractions interfere with your concentration, say to yourself, “It’s OK. I don’t have to repeat the prayer until I get it perfect. My intent is love; I don’t have to be perfect to love.”

“…My intent is love; I don’t have to be perfect in getting rid of intruding thoughts.”

Perhaps, the remedy for perfectionism is what Dr. Raymond Lloyd Richmond [the Catholic psychologist] explains: “So keep in mind that your salvation depends on your willingness to grow in love, not on your human perfection.” I can see how, in my youth, I did not understand the true mystical definition of “perfection.”

The mistranslation of the Aramaic word “complete” into “perfection” has led to so much confusion. Today, it occurred to me that what I most needed to do was to go back to the New Testament, Matthew 5, and discover the CONTEXT of Jesus’ statement. I was astonished, and I think the context explains everything.

See Matthew 5: 44-48
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Isn’t it clear that Jesus is comparing the way we do things to the way His heavenly Father does them? If we love only those who love us, don’t the unbelievers [the pagans] do that? Jesus is telling us to BE COMPLETE: Love those who don’t love you as well as those who love you. After all, our Heavenly Father causes the rain to fall on the unjust as well as the just.

For those of us who are perfectionists, not to worry. We don’t have to obsess over whether or not to be perfect. Jesus is not asking for perfection, only to love as best we can. Raymond Lloyd Richmond [the Catholic psychologist] is right when he explains: “So keep in mind that your salvation depends on your willingness to grow in love, not on your human perfection.”

Keeping all of this in mind, I share the prayer [which I often pray when I am feeling painfully imperfect!] which I posted at the end of “Sullied & Smudged”–the sign of the Cross, the renewal of your baptismal vows,will console you, placing you and your weakness directly into the powerful, loving arms of Christ on the cross:

PRAYER: Above all things, my God,
I long to be pure for You
in my body, mind, will, and spirit.
My humanity is weak, inattentive, and clumsy,
and like a little child who falls down,
I soil myself constantly.

Lift me up, O Holy Spirit,
and cast Your fire on me to purify me
and make me a garden of intimacy for my God,
a garden brimming with pure lilies
which will delight His Holiness and Purity.

Put to death all sin and imperfection in me
as I renew my hatred of sin and Satan
in my baptismal vows:
“ In the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.”

In this sign I denounce all
that is imperfect and impure.
I throw myself on Your Mercy,
into Your Crucified arms on the Cross,
abandoning my weakness to Your power and love, abandoning my imperfect will to my adorable Father, always in the fire of the Holy Spirit.

O Holy Spirit, in utter emptiness of heart
I wait for Your Fire, Your Wind,
and Your living water to rush upon me
that I may live Christ, and Him Crucified.

The dark years…the lost years?

As I meditated before the Blessed Sacrament, I read from my little LOVE CRUCIFIED meditation book the words of the angel of Fatima: “Make everything you do a sacrifice and offer it as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. Above all, accept the sufferings sent you by the Lord.”

I think of my present sufferings—little or nothing compared to what I went through during the 40 years or so before my reversion in 2009. 40 years wasted! My heart aches for those years that I was generally away from Christ and the Church. Are all these, many of the most grievous sufferings of my life, lost? I did not, at the time, offer them in union with Jesus’ suffering, in union with the Sacrifice of the Mass. Is all this most rich suffering lost to me and to souls forever?

Then I remembered the teaching of my LOVE CRUCIFIED community on the WOUNDS. All the wounds of my life are buried deep in my heart—very much alive, active, and powerful. Through the Holy Spirit I enter my wounds, and all the sufferings of my life through those dark years are present still.sacredheart-ad

A few months ago I prepared a meditation on the Sacred Heart of Christ. I wrote:
34. For the Heart of Jesus, that little face, [each one of us], “one beyond compare” is His whole focus, the infinite delight of His Heart or the unmitigated sorrow of His Heart. It is as though that one little face is the only one that has ever existed or will ever exist and the fullness of His Heart rests on that little one. Now reflect on all the people who have died. So many have been lost to perdition. Can you imagine His grief? His sorrow both in the Garden of Gethsemane and right now as He looks at our century, our country, our family?

35. Don’t just reflect on the lost souls, but on the barrage of pain inflicted on victim souls, on the abused, for example. His Heart has felt every pain of every hurt or frightened child—and it is His child’s face that Jesus sees in every confused, broken adult. The loss of innocence and purity everywhere drowned, killed, mutilated, in the clutches of the evil one. The Sacred Heart of Jesus takes personally every hurt to every child of His Heart. Can we ever again “pray for souls” without seeing with Him all those innocent faces in harm’s way?

Christ holds in His Heart EVERYTHING every soul has ever suffered and will suffer. These are His dreadful wounds. Through our little wounds, we enter into His wounds, His suffering for souls.

I suffer my wounds again with You, my sweet Christ, for the salvation of souls and for my territory of souls. My grief and repentance show that they [my wounds] are with me still, still attached to the people in my life who were party to my agony of heart then, and now.

All is present to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to whom all time is present. In the eternal mode of prayer, I submit all in union with Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to the Father. Nothing that ever occurred in time can be lost—but always lives deep in His Eucharistic Heart, my wounds touching His wounds as I suffer all with Him.

What I suffer today is not from today only, but the encompassing wounds of an entire life submitted to the eternal God who is beyond time and space. All of my suffering, offered to the Eternal Heart, are oblation, sacrifice, immolation, and love-offerings for today and for eternity.

Nothing is loss to those who live the hidden life with Jesus in the Eucharist. Even Mary, our Sorrowful Mother, suffered her own personal wounds as sorrows of a lifetime filled her soul. Through her wounds, she entered the wounded heart of her Son.

PRAYER
In the eternal mode of prayer,
I submit all in union with Christ,
through the Holy Spirit, to the Father.
Today and every day I enter through the wounds of my heart
into the wounded heart of Christ.
My sufferings live in my memory, my thoughts,
in the ways that suffering has shaped my body,
my mind, and my soul—all this I submit
in union with Your Sacred Heart to my adorable Abba.

________________________

To read more about the WOUNDS and about this topic, see http://lovecrucified.com/about_us/simple_path.html         PDF pp. 34-50