Easter Triduum Reflection Part 3 of 3: The Wound Redeemed Through the Cross
While attending a course at the Theology of the Body Institute last spring, author and theological scholar, Christopher West, shared a touching story of a young priest and his budding ministry. Tragically, this young man from his youth carried the wound of sexual abuse by the hands of Catholic priest. We are all aware of how fallout of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catzholic Church has done tremendous damage to the victims, their families, and the Church in her entirety, but this young priest has found a way to find life-giving fruit amidst his trauma. In light of his wound, he spends his ordained life ministering to priests who are guilty of committing the same abuses that wounded him so profoundly as a child.
Behold the power of the wound redeemed by the cross.
The acclaimed 20th century spiritual writer Henri Nouwen captured the healing power of the redeemed wound in his book, The Wounded Healer. Writing that “ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts and to make that recognition the starting point of their service,” Nouwen asserts that the compassion necessary to truly meet a man in his pain begins with the recognition of the minister’s own suffering. Our wounds give us a special authority to bring comfort to those who share similar struggles in ways that others could not, and this authority is perfected by grace through the cross.
This is more than ministry by sharing scars. Anyone can show their scars to a person in crisis, and say “It’ll all be fine. I’ve been there before.” It takes a saint to be fully present with that person in crisis by revealing his or her still gaping wound redeemed by grace, and then proclaiming through words and the witness of his or her life that by the death and Resurrection of Christ, there is no real crisis to fear.
It must have been difficult for St. Thomas to actually shove his hand into the side of Christ. There had to be some hesitation on his part. The man before him was dead a few days prior, and Thomas had recently abandoned our Lord in His greatest hour of need. 17th century painter, Carravagio, captures the scene in its fullness in his masterpiece, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Thomas’s eyes are wide open while the other apostles gather round, needing a boost in their own faith as well. The marks of the nails and the lance in Christ’s body are still fresh, and look particularly tender. Of note, Christ’s face is wincing and his hand is clasped around Thomas’s, as if to say, “Yes, this is uncomfortable for me, but I love you tremendously. Do not worry, I have been waiting to do this for you from the beginning of time.” With that simple act, the exposition of a redeemed wound and the invitation to intimately encounter that wound, the mystified St. Thomas could finally utter, “My Lord and my God.”
The fruit of a redeemed wound revealed to another is authentic and complete conversion.
Carrying this out in our own lives is a question that can only be answered by God in his perfect timing. We cannot will the redemption of our wounds, we can only will our submission to our God-given crosses and trust that He will bring all to completion. It is not ours to run around like expositionists dumping our sob-stories on everyone we encounter. Those who seek to skip the cross and minister through their wounds on their own terms will lead others to scandal and sin. God provides the cross, God draws the crowd, God redeems the wound, and God converts the hearts. All we do is trust.
Though our wounds may proclaim death and despair, in Christ they pronounce life in abundance. Though our human tendency is to bury our wounds in shame, Christ calls us to expose them to his redemptive power on our God-given crosses. Though in isolation our wounds had no purpose, in light of Christ’s death and Resurrection they can be transformed by grace into living gospels and the most powerful tools of conversion! We are now in the time of grace, where the Divine Physician is returning to wholeness all that has been bruised and broken by sin. We have much to look forward to, and much to bring to the Lord.
The Book of Isaiah states that when Christ returns to redeem the whole world, the wolf shall live with the lamb. When an abused child, now adult priest, can live a life peacefully ministering to his abusers, we see a small glimpse of the redemptive power that Christ will ultimately bring to completion when He comes again in glory. Have a Blessed Easter!
Light up the darkness!