By Sister Mary Garascia, C.P.P.S.
I have been reflecting in recent weeks on the connection between wounds and Easter.
Wounds are part of Catholic religious imagery. There is the “Lamb standing as if slain,” the Lamb bearing its wounds in the Book of Revelation (5: 6-14). This image is part of every Eucharistic liturgy during which the Lamb of God invites us to the supper of the Lamb. It is a cross, not a crucifix, which is required to be in every Catholic altar space. There is the episode in the Gospel of John about the skeptical Apostle Thomas, who is invited to touch the wounds on the body of the Risen Christ (John 20:24-29). Once I was in an African American religious goods store in Memphis. I bought a piece of religious wall art. “Oh,” the clerk said as she charged my purchase, “I love that bleeding heart icon!” Since this was not a Catholic store, she did not know it was a Catholic Sacred Heart of Jesus --with the wounds on the hands and the blood flowing from the heart of Christ.
What does all this have to do with Easter? Although liturgists always claim that the Resurrection is the highest doctrine of our faith, in his book “The Holy Longing” (p75), Ronald Rolheiser says: “the central mystery within all of Christianity, undergirding everything else, is the mystery of the Incarnation.” His many writings consistently emphasize the ongoing nature of the incarnation. Jesus not only took on flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, but He keeps taking it on forever as the Risen Christ, present in our history, in us, and in our Eucharistic communities.
The Risen Body of Jesus still had the wounds that being human dealt to him. There was no “do over” or erasing of his wounds. Those very wounds are part of Who He Is, and we need to pay attention to that! We also are wounded human persons. For Christ made flesh and also for us, to be human is to carry wounds. Even children have wounds. You and I differ in many aspects—that is what makes us individuals—and one of those aspects is our different wounds. It is the Me-with- my unique wounds that the risen Christ embraces today.
The mystery of resurrection that we celebrate in the Easter season is the assurance that our wounds can become sources of grace for us, sources of new life. We need to name our wounds, face them, and learn to love them as part of ourselves and with the compassion of Christ. But this can only happen if we let the risen Christ help us to redeem them.
I have always found the image of lace to be a rich spiritual image. For men reading this reflection, there is some evidence that Flemish fishermen, who tied beautiful knots for their women, invented lace. Lace is made of holes. We can’t fill in those holes. If a hole in our life is lack of love from a parent, we can’t get someone else to replace that; if it is betrayal by a spouse, no one else will ever be able to make that hurt go away. The gift of resurrection grace is not the grace to fill in the holes in our lives. Resurrection grace helps us weave around these holes or wounds. Resurrection grace helps us to learn from them, to bear them, to know ourselves through the pain and mystery of them. Through resurrection grace we still carry our wounds, but we are able to “stand up” with them like the Lamb, “standing as though slain.” Resurrection grace makes it possible for us to be “wounded healers” for others. It is this grace of Resurrection that we invite into our souls all during the Easter season.
Sr. Mary Garascia is the Interim Pastoral Coordinator of the The Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Redlands.