Touching the wounds

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, most famous for his “doubts” about the risen Jesus and his challenge: Unless I touch his wounds, “I will not believe.”

As I meditated on these words, I thought about the wounds of the people around me – the poverty, the early death of people, the drought that threatens livelihoods, the violence, and more. There I have the chance to touch the wounds of Christ.

But I began to think that perhaps what I most need at this time is for the wounded Christ to touch my wounds. I need to recognize and live with the wounds in my life – the fears, the failures, the sins, and more.

I thought back to the Cistercian monk Michael Casey’s Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology which I recently read. Speaking of prayer in the midst of crisis he noted

We begin to find peace in the very act of owning our interior malaise, in opening up our woundedness before the Lord and, in a wondrous way, feeling ourselves welcomed and loved.

Casey opens up a facet of Bernard’s mysticism that can open us to the healing love of the wounded Christ if we open ourselves:

Uncover the wound so that you may receive the physician’s attention.

It is so tempting to cover over our wounds – and let them fester. It is so tempting to try to look healthy and powerful.

But I have recently experienced the wisdom of St. Bernard who reminds us of God’s embrace of the misery of our human condition – not only embracing us, but becoming one with us, becoming vulnerable, becoming the wounded God.

“Nothing so demonstrates God’s positive attitude towards the human race as embracing my humanity. I repeat: my humanity, and not the flesh Adam had before the fall. What manifests God’s mercy more clearly than that he would embrace such misery?”

Driven out and drowned

Somebody should make a You-Tube video of today’s Gospel, Matthew 8: 28-34. Beside the demoniacs, there’s the drama of a herd of pigs running off a cliff, like lemmings, and drowning. What a splash!

But what should really be happening in our lives is asking what needs to be driven out and drowned.

What aspects of my life prevent me from being truly human – that is truly a reflection of the image and likeness of God?

What needs to be driven out and drowned?

Some aspects of our lives really need to be drowned.

But then there are some aspects that just need to be transformed by the grace of our baptism, where we are drowned to death in order to live fully.

May I be open to the Lord driving out the demons and letting them be drowned. And may I also be open to those aspects of my life that need to be transformed by God’s grace.

The poor person fully alive

The glory of God is the human person fully alive…
St. Irenaeus

The glory of God is the poor person fully alive.
Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero

About seven weeks before he was martyred in the chapel of a hospital for poor cancer patients in San Salvador, Monseñor Romero received an honorary degree from Louvain in Belgium.

His speech is an astute explication of the ministry of the Archdiocese of San Salvador. At the end of his remarks, he notesd:

Early Christians used to say Gloria Dee, vivens homo (“the glory of God is the living person”). We could make this more concrete by saying Gloria Dei, vivens Pauper (“the glory of God is the living poor person”).

Today is the feast day of the second century bishop of Lyons, Saint Irenaeus, who wrote:

The glory of God is the living human person, for humanity’s true life is the vision of God.

As I was preparing to lead a Celebration of the Word in the village of Joyas Galanas this morning, I found myself reflecting on these quotes in light of today’s readings, especially the Gospel.

Mark 5: 21-43 tells of the healing of two very different women.

The leader of the synagogue, Jairus, comes to Jesus asking him to heal his dying daughter. He is a man with connections and power who seeks help for the life of his child.

On the way, an unnamed, unknown woman touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed. She has no power; in fact she is one of the despised. She is a woman; she has been hemorrhaging for twelve years and therefore was ritually impure; she is poor, having spent all her money on useless doctors. She is an outcast – but an outcast with faith.

Jesus seeks to know who touched him, who was healed. He restores her to the community and, as Gustavo Gutierrez noted, has rescued her from anonymity. And then he acknowledges her faith.

She is healed not only of her illness but also of the malady of isolation and marginalization. Indeed, Jesus addresses her as “daughter,” this woman who probably was cast aside by all too many people, maybe even her family.

But what happens next is instructive. Jairus is told that his daughter has died. Jesus tells him, “Do not fear. Just have faith.”

The woman with the flow of blood was praised for her faith, but the synagogue official has to be reminded to have faith!

Jesus then proceeds to heal the daughter of Jairus, taking the child by hand.

The glory of God was shown that day in Galilee – a child was restored to life and a poor sick woman was restored to health and to the life of the community. The woman recovered her dignity.

Thus we are called to choose life, to provide for the life of our sisters and brothers, especially the poorest, and to recognize the dignity of all persons.

We are called to live as Jesus did, even remembering the little details

Before leaving Jairus’ home, Jesus told them to give the child something to eat.

That’s the least we can do.

Rafael Palacios, Salvadoran martyr of the base communities

On June 20, 1977, Padre Rafael Palacios was gunned down on the streets of Santa Tecla, El Salvador. He had worked with base communities and had recently been named pastor of a church whose previous pastor had been martyred.

convento painting

Padre Rafael identified with the poor and worked, accompanying them in their efforts to grow in a liberating faith through the base communities. One of his strongest actions was to arrange a Lenten Stations of the Cross with strong justice themes.

He was buried in a side chapel of the church of Santa Lucía in Suchitoto where his family lived and where he grew up.

DSC00586Blessed Monseñor Romero said this of him in a homily:

“In him we see the new man and the zeal he had to fashion those new human beings that Latin America needs today—not just by changing structures but above all by changing hearts. It is the voice of conversion, the voice of genuine evangelization.”

Today I’d like to share parts of the hymn that was written in his honor:

La verdad de la
anunciaste siempre fiel;
por seguir a Jesucristo
te mataron, Rafael.

The truth of the Gospel
you announced, always faithful.
They killed you, Rafael,
for following Jesus Christ.

1. Los campesinos han doblado,
anunciando si dolor
ante el cuerpo acribillado
por el odio y el rencor.
No entendieron su lenguaje,
no aceptaron su misión,
no aguantaron su mensaje
que exigió liberación.

The campesinos have bent down
announcing their sorrow
before his body riddled [with bullets]
because of hate and resentment.
They did not understand his language;
they did not accept his mission;
they could not stand his message
which demanded liberation.

2. Como a Cristo flagelaron
con un látigo feroz
con calumnias te azotaron
para hacer callar tu voz.
Caminaste hacia el Calvario
como caminó Jesús
señalado por denarios
la metralla fue su cruz.

As they scourged Christ
with a fierce whip,
with slanders they whipped you
to silence your voice.
You walked toward Calvary
as Jesus walked,
branded by money,
shrapnel was your cross.

3. Que tristeza Santa Tecla
mucho rezo y devoción
pero matas el profeta
cuando exige conversión.
Hoy nos grita con su ejemplo
vivan con sinceridad.
Nuestro Dios no está en el templo,
sino en la comunidad.

What sadness for Santa Tecla,
with much prayer and devotion.
But you kill the prophet
when he called for conversion.
Now you cry out to us with you example:
live with sincerity.
Our God is not in the church building
but in the community

4. Trabajaste por el Reino
fue en tu vida un gran ideal;
por un mundo más fraterno
denunciaste siempre el mal.
Tus palabras ahora queman
con su fuego de verdad,
el Reino de Dios comienza
al construir fraternidad.

You worked for the Reign;
it was a great ideal in your life;
for a more fraternal world
you always denounced evil.
Your words now are on fire
with your fire of truth;
the Reign of God begins
by building fraternity.

5. Aunque tu cuerpo han matado
vivirás en el Señor
y los que te han escuchado
resucitarán tu amor.
Una cruz va adelante
nos invita a caminar;
una antorcha muy brillante
ilumina nuestro andar.

Even though they have killed your body,
you will live in the Lord
and those who have heard you
will raise up your love.
A cross goes before
and invites is to walk;
a very bright light
lightens up our way.

The sacramentality of a child’s shoe

I am in El Salvador for a few days. Two good Iowa friends visited me last week and now are visiting friends in El Salvador.

I brought them to Suchitoto and stayed two days to visits my friends – as well as one family who are mutual friends.

Yesterday on the bus back to Suchitoto from San Salvador, a man sat down next to me. Before he got off outside San Salvador, he opened his small backpack and pulled out a child’s shoe. He seemed to handle it with such love and care that I could not help think of the child, perhaps a two year old boy, who would wear it. I was also touched by the love this man had for the child.

During the rest of the ride I kept returning to the shoe. It had become for me a sign of God’s presence. This show represented the gift of life of a young child, the gift of love of his father, and the presence of small signs of God’s love everywhere, even – maybe especially – among the poor.

I hope that I do not forget that moment in the #129 bus where God’s love became present to me in a child’s shoe.

Another Salvadoran martyr

On June 14, 1980, Franciscan Friar Cosme Spessotto was killed praying in the church of the parish of San Juan Nonualco, El Salvador, where he had served for many years.

An Italian by birth, he arrived in El Salvador in 1950 and spent his life in service of the poor until his martyrdom.

He served his flock, visiting the sick (as a good priest should), brought in the cultivation of grapes (as a good Italian might), helped some construct dignified houses, and buried the dead (as a good Christian should even though it might be dangerous). He even denounced the grave injustices committed by the Salvadoran Armed Forces.

In May he entered a hospital for a liver problem and was fond to suffer from leukemia. But he went back to visit his parish, where he was martyred by members of the Treasury Police.

He returned even though he had received three death threats, warning him not to return to San Juan Nonualco.

After his death this note was found among his possessions:

“I have a feeling that at one time or another fanatical persons can take away my life. I ask the Lord that at the opportune moment he give me the strength to defend the rights of Christ and his Church. To die a martyr would be a grace I don’t deserve. To wash away with the blood, poured out by Christ, all my sins, defects, and weaknesses of my past life would be a gracious and gratuitous gift of God.”

Another martyr who identified himself with the God of the poor.

Ephrem, the mad deacon

[Ephrem] remained a deacon all his life,
and to escape episcopal consecration
he is supposed to have feigned madness.
Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Syrian deacon and doctor of the Church, Ephrem.

Ephrem is noted for his many hymns in which he used to teach the faith and to combat heretics, some of whom had written hymns for their cause.

He wrote commentaries on much of scripture and was renowned for his preaching – so much so that he was called the Harp of the Holy Spirit.

Though he lived in a cave outside Edessa, he did not separate himself completely from the world. In fact a few months before he died he organized a major relief effort for famine victims.

In many ways, his service of the Altar with his hymns, his service of the Word with his preaching and commentaries, and his service of Charity with his care for famine victims and others exemplify what a deacon is and what a deacon does.

He did not seek higher “rank” within the Church, finding his service as a deacon – as a servant – was his calling, his vocation.

He wrote a prayer which is used during Lent among the Orthodox and which expresses the spirituality of a servant of God:

O Lord and Master of my Life,
give me not a spirit of sloth, lust for power,
and idle talk.
But give me, your servant,
a spirit of charity, humility, patience, and love.
O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own faults
and not judge another,
for blessed are you forever.

There is not madness in such a prayer – but much wisdom.