So many wounds… June 26, 2015
”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.
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.