Saturday, March 23, 2013

Vulnera Christi: The wound to the person

Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away;
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
James Montgomery

We must not forget that Our Lord has been suffering throughout His life with us. Our demands on Him have pulled Him away from prayer; we have begged, pleaded and insisted on Him going out of His way to heal us; we have demanded that He explain Himself; and some of us have attacked Him, prepared to stone Him, and sought to kill Him. These has he borne with kindness, love, charity, and with passion too.

On the night of the Passover, knowing that His end is coming, He is frightenened. Is this a sin? No! This is the very heart of the greatest human courage - to feel the fear and do it anyway. He prays, begging His Father to try another method, but nonetheless accepting the inevitable in obedience to His Father. There can be no other way to accomplish the conquering of Death itself on behalf of all humanity.

Our Lord's humanity craves company in His hour of need and He finds His friends asleep, unable to stay awake with Him. In a few hours, they all abandon Him, the ones who love Him most. Even on the cross, the Lord sees them at a distance. He cannot escape the fact that He has been cut off from His friends and is in the hands of those who mock Him, deride Him, twist His words of love into worst of the filthiest hate, and make of His name a swear word.

"Thy rebuke hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness : I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me." (Psalm lxix.20)

This is Our Lord's first wound. The way to justify an act of atrocity to another human being is to deny that he is a human being. In being stripped of his clothes, He is stripped of the dignity and worth that men would give his fellows. He is stripped of His personhood, His appearance of humanity. He is now a piece of meat to be beaten and pierced and stabbed before those who cannot see what He has been trying to do.

Our Lord's first wound, however, shows us how to turn things round and make that repentance. Every single human being on this planet, no matter what evil they have committed, no matter how wickedly they think, no matter how good they are, no matter how they irritate us, no matter how young or old, no matter how demanding or insistent or strident or foolish or challenging - all, ALL, possess the image of God. All are human. All have a worth given to them by God and this cannot - can not - be taken away from them. We can choose to ignore it, but we do so at a loss to ourselves; we do so at a separation of ourselves from God and from each other. We can look at Our Lord's agony as his personhood is wounded by us and for us, and we can see ourselves as we separate ourselves in the same way from the love of God.

Let us always seek to love one another, particularly those who are difficult to love. Then, and only then, can we make good use of the freedom and dignity bought with the price of Our Lord's freedom and dignity.

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