Curatio Retreat 2020
“Wounded Hearts Love Best”
Father Justin Kizewski
Second Reflection – Saturday Morning
“Some Wounds Don’t Heal”
I think we’ll get started, and we’ll begin with a prayer … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord Jesus, come to us, stay with us, be present to us. Reveal to us Your Heart and the treasures that lie within. Cure us of anything that holds us back, of anything that wounds us. Help us, in those wounds, to discover Yours, to discover You, and in them to mirror Your love. We ask the intercession of our patron saints, our guardian angels, and Mary, our Mother. We ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We ask to know the Father’s love, and we ask this in Your name, who is Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen. … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As I mentioned, things are being taped and then there will be a transcript, and so I always want to begin with an act of faith, and so, if ever in the course of the discussion I say something that is not of the faith or not of God, I disavow that and I renounce that for sure, but I’ll make an act of faith here by reading one of my favorite hymns, and it’s a hymn written by St. John Henry Newman, and so it is an act of faith. And I would encourage too even yesterday, as I was talking of the preparation of prayer, that we might make an act of faith as a way of beginning. There are so many ways this can be done, so here I’ll try to exemplify that and attempt to model that for you, and then certainly, if you know the hymn, you can join in reciting it with me, but in it are so many points of faith, of an affirmation or confession of faith, and particularly this third stanza is the one I want to zero in on. You’ll hear it when I recite it, but here it is in itself:
And I hold in veneration, for the love of him alone, Holy Church as his creation, and her teachings as his own.
So, it goes:
Firmly I believe and truly God is Three and God is One; and I next acknowledge duly manhood taken by the Son. And I trust and hope most fully in that manhood crucified; and I love supremely, solely, Christ who bore my sins as I. And I hold in veneration, for the love of him alone, Holy Church as his creation, and her teachings as his own. Praise and thanks be ever given, with and through the angelic host, to the God of earth and heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
First, a bit of just review and recap from yesterday. We talked about prayer and we talked about the four moments of this method of prayer recommended by St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life. They are very simple, and a too rigorous application of this would probably be distracting, but the overall sentiment is important, in that we would first prepare – preparation – and consideration is the second one, affection or resolution is the third step, and then the conclusion, or the spiritual bouquet, is the fourth one. And so, we prepare just by calling to mind that God is present, that we are blind and we need to be made aware of His presence; we are the blind person, waiting to see, and even the Gospel passage of Bartimaeus is that he hears that the Lord is present and he calls out, “Son of David, have pity on me!”… and he’s told to be quiet. You know, he’s in a sense wounded even by those around him, who say, “Shhh. Just don’t bother him,” and then he cries all the louder. And then Jesus does what Jesus does; He sends His apostles – He sends His Church – and they say, “The Master is calling you.” That’s the message, and what a beautiful message that would be. “The Master is calling you.” And then Bartimaeus goes to the Lord Jesus, and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” That’s a beautiful question that the Lord then poses to you and to me. “What do you wish that I could do for you?” And Bartimaeus boldly says, “Lord, I want to see,” and that again can be our prayer.
In each of those moments, when it becomes our prayer of a desire, of an affection that we want, we have taken that preparation – the blind man in the Lord’s presence – the consideration of this event, and we imagine that we can place ourselves somewhere in that scene, and then the affection and resolutions, like “I want to see,” where we can be edified and built up by this fact that the Master is calling, or even that the Lord has sent us His Church, His apostles, their successors, their collaborators, fellow Christians. And, in order to build up this body, this Christ has come to full stature. It stretches really from earth to heaven and from the rising of the sun to its setting in every time and place, and that is Christ come to full stature. And then we collect these graces of our prayer, so that they don’t get wasted. We are even into the Lord in this, that we can collect all of the fragments and then are meant to put them in whatever image you use. St. Francis de Sales uses a vase of flowers, and you can carry that home with you and try to cart it and you trip and it breaks. Now cart it and then go back to it. Oh, I remember that from this morning, that beautiful little flower from my prayer! And then, in a moment of the day, you can call that to mind. Or perhaps you break at the end of the day. Well, then, you can think the following day of what you had talked about the previous evening.
And then you would close with some even more vocal prayer, and you notice that’s how the Church does it. I was struck by this at morning prayer. We do begin with “Lord, open my lips.” We begin with, “Oh, God, come to my assistance.” And then we conclude effectively with a doxology of “Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and we close with a blessing – “Go in peace,” “Thanks be to God” – and we conclude in gratitude. So, the way that even St. Francis de Sales or many of our traditions would suggest its praise is exactly the way the Church does.
What else? The purpose of yesterday … so, if you’re joining us today and yesterday was a lot on prayer and not so much on our theme of “Wounded, I will never cease to love,” but the purpose of yesterday, as I was thinking about it this morning and will recapitulate it and re-propose it, is this: We consider our own wounds as a pointing to the drink called happiness, where our thirst meets God’s thirst, and then being quenched by Him in what is ultimately a scene. In this context, it’s a scene through scars, through wounds, in which we are like an open window through which we see God’s presence, or which, rather, the wounds are an open window through which we see God’s presence, know God’s healing, and learn to love like Him.
I’ll say it one more time, but this is a kind of purpose statement to recapitulate what happened yesterday, to catch people up who were either not present or otherwise unable to hear, because we had some technological problems. We consider our own wounds as a pointing to the drink called happiness, where our thirst meets God’s thirst, which is then quenched by Him, which is ultimately seen through scars, through wounds, which then are like an open window through which we see God’s presence, know God’s healing, and then learn to love like Him.
Our wounds can be different, and I think they can be self-inflicted in sin; they can be inflicted upon us by others because of their sin; certain discouragements or disappointments or frustrations of life; loss or pain. More positively, wounds can also be caused by giving and love. In a book soon to be published by a friend of mine, Fr. Vincent Anyama – the book is called Primacy of Christ – he quotes Joseph Ratzinger, who says, “The encounter with beauty can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the soul and thus makes it see clearly.” So already this wound, and this notion of seeing, is there, and my way of explaining this is, “Why is that? Why do wounds help us see open like windows, through which we see God’s presence, where specifically He wants to heal, where we know God is healing then? And we’ll find out as we progress and we will learn to love like Him.
Wounds can be stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation, being alone, loss, pain, suffering, sin, habitual sin, addiction, other people – particular persons – and their actions, their offenses against us, love or beauty. The temptation can be to fight it, where trouble results. We are meant to be okay. How are you fighting? This is what, in fact, our inheritance is; this is our condition that we’ve inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and in the garden they are told, “You may eat from all of the trees of the garden, but not this one … not the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The devil knows this, and so he slithers on in. “Why did God say you can’t eat of any of the trees?” That’s a lie … that’s not what He said. And she says as much. “Well, we can eat of any of the trees. We just can’t eat of this one, because if we eat of that one, we’ll die.” And the devil says, “You will not die. You’ll be like God.” Seeing that the fruit of the tree was good for eating, and it can be a desire for us to be like God – this is what we want and it really does speak to our hearts – she reaches out. Adam, standing right next to her, not protecting her, not defending her, takes the fruit – grasps at the fruit, this motion right here, taking that fruit, taking that likeness to God. That grasping at likeness to God is the problem, because that’s not what God is like. I mean, God doesn’t grasp at His own Divinity; in fact, quite the opposite.
My mind goes to the passage in Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 5 and following. St. Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus,” (this is Christ’s mind … this is God’s mind) “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” So, He was God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But God doesn’t grasp at His own likeness or hold onto it, refusing to give up its appearances. That’s not God who grasps at Divinity. “But rather, He emptied Himself; He took on the form of a slave, a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient onto death, even death on a cross.” That’s what God is like; that’s ultimately what we want, is to be like God. But if you’re going to be like God, you have to be like that. So, any grasping at divinity, by definition … and according to God, this is the case … any grasping at divinity, any grasping at likeness to God and placing of ourselves in the position of God makes us, by definition, lose likeness to God. This is some countenance that is not like God, and all sin works like this. Why is sin sin? Oh, God just arbitrarily made it so. False! The Commandments are modeled on God’s own nature; they are invitations to share His life. “This is how you are like Me. Don’t do this.”
It’s true He said this, right? If you eat of this, you’ll die. And indeed they ate the fruit and they died. Certainly death and suffering came into the world; it’s not part of the original plan. He doesn’t make them sin. He sees it, He knows it, and He permits it. And what happens? Yeah, death and suffering entered and they died. Effectively they would lose that likeness to God, that divine life in them. That fire of divine love that was meant to inhabit their souls is gone, and they’re cold. Their attention is drawn to their nakedness. Brrrr … it’s cold out here. And they go and they hide.
This is what we do with our wounds; we go and we hide. And the Lord God goes into the garden looking for them. He knows where they are, and He knows what’s happened. Fr. Gaitley does a very beautiful reflection on how so much of God’s work in the history of salvation is trying to get us out from behind that bush. “I still love you. Trust Me.” But it could also be said that, (instead of saying) “Don’t do this lest you die,” God could have said, “Don’t do this lest I die.” By grasping for fruit, by grasping likeness, I die. I die in you – My likeness dies in you – (or even) I die on the cross, and this Heart is ripped open to prove, in this incredible way, that My ways are not your ways. My ways are always blocked.”
So, these wounds that we hide He encourages us to come out and reveal. Again, why? Because we’ll see this is what Christ does. He reveals His wounds … appropriately, among friends, where His wounds will be venerated and revered, where the proper reverence that’s needed in order to have that relationship is there. It’s not a public confession … He doesn’t have sin, obviously … but even in Christ, the way that He confesses His wounds, He does so only to His friends.
So, as we move now into thinking of today’s topic, “Some Wounds Don’t Heal,” you have the sense too of what happens when the wounds are visible. To connect it with yesterday’s drink called happiness, this desire that we’re trying to stir up in ourselves, knowledge and love are inversely relieved from earth to heaven, and I’ll say what I mean by this. On earth, the way we grow in love is by growing in knowledge. The more we know, the more we love. Even as we come to know someone, we’ll be like, “Oh, tell me more. I’ve got to know more. Tell me all about yourself.” And the more we know, the more we can love. In fact, in those deep relationships of love, you’re going to know that person incredibly well. Maybe there are some things you wish you didn’t know … when they pass gas and those kinds of things. That’s love, especially if you can love them besides, right? The movement of knowledge versus love takes on a whole other connotation in the context of the passing of gas. But in this earth, love and knowledge … we say appetite follows cognition, so our desire, our love will grow upon knowledge. In heaven, it’s reversed, where our knowledge is proportioned to our love. The more we love – especially, the more we love in this life, certainly the more we love in heaven, the more we will know. In heaven, this relationship between love and knowledge are reversed.
A way of understanding this is the man that is trucking through the desert. So, he’s walking through the desert and he has no water. He’s walking through, and this is all in the context of this thirst for this drink called happiness, and he says, “Water! … Water! … Water!” And he finally gets through the desert and he gets that cool glass of water, after having stirred up that desire for water having traversed the desert. How much is he going to enjoy that glass of water? It must be the best water he’s ever had. See how a fostering of desire – a growing in desire – can lead to a deeper appreciation, or a deeper knowing in this way? Well, heaven is like that. We move through this pilgrimage of earth, and the idea is that we grow in love of God, of neighbor, of self. And the more we love, the more we stir up that desire, the more in heaven we will know and be known, the greater appreciation and the greater joy will be ours for having worked on charity in this life.
It’s good to think on heaven and hell, to think of that joy, that appreciation, that love in heaven. We are linked to our own theme. There are things in heaven – wounds, also marks that will be seen. Each of us in baptism are marked with the character of baptism, so the character of these sacraments that imprint a character on your soul, that conform your soul to Christ’s, always for the purpose of worship, always for the purpose of giving glory to the Father and building up the body that is Christ in this perpetual offering, so growing in holiness, but these characters, I’m going to suggest, certainly have some perhaps metaphorical relations and perhaps analogical relation to a wound. I mean, even the way that we explain character is like a brand that goes on your soul. It doesn’t hurt in itself; it does bring conformity with Christ, and so it does bring conformity to His sufferings, His wounds, but that character in the soul is permanent from your baptism, from your confirmation, and my ordination and deacon’s ordination. And these characters allow for us … baptism allows us to receive all of the sacraments, to participate in this passive way in divine worship. Then confirmation gives us this character to actively share in the life and mission of Jesus Christ and His body, the Church; that is confirmation. Holy orders allows us to serve all of you, but that character in the soul is permanent; it will be there forever, and in heaven it will be to God’s glory. That character will resound His glory, be resplendent with His light, obvious to all even though it’s an invisible reality imprinted on our immortal souls. Again, it’s an invisible reality; it’s not something that is physically seen, but in heaven “to see” is the best image we have in order to talk about it. It will be seen; it will be intuitive. “Oh, wow, you’re baptized. Wow … you’re confirmed. Oh, you’re a priest!”
Likewise, in hell these things will be evident, to our great shame, and they will become then occasions of ridicule by the evil one, by his demons, by others. “Oh, you’re baptized! You wasted it. Oh, you’re confirmed.” And then obviously the priesthood … it will be a great source of shame for the soul in hell, because of all the grace that the priest would have received, all of the good things of God’s work that he had witnessed, in a sense laid bare for all to see. Characters are like this, and I think some wounds are like this. We will have examples for sure. Some wounds seem not to heal, and so the point is, in this meditation on heaven now, to think of these wounds. Again, either it’s sin and inflicted by sin … and we have to always balance this with some of the other things that our tradition really holds dear. Saint Faustina was speaking to Our Lord Jesus and brought up a previous confession, and He said, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t remember that.” That’s beautiful. So, I think we can move forward in this reflection by suggesting that it’s not the sin but maybe the effects of that sin, how it perhaps re-routed in our life, maybe some of the other effects that they have … somehow perhaps that might be visible. The effects of sin might be visible, but how different will this be in heaven versus in hell? In heaven, it will be an occasion of God’s glory. Yeah, this is my story, and God conquered it. Yeah, that thirst lumped me at that time of my life or that effect, and that wasn’t outside of God’s providence for me. God was with me.
And that’s in the case of the wound being sin, but it could be the wounds that are inflicted by others. It could be something that we carry with us, and this happens. One of the examples of wounds, certainly in this life, that aren’t healed is that of St. Paul’s thorn. We don’t know what that was. I think that’s the point in part, because it could have been anything, and for each of us that thorn is different, and so we don’t know Paul’s thorn; we just know that he asked to have it removed and that it was refused, in a manner of speaking. God’s answers to prayer are always behind the discursive. I think we can never know; it’s either yes, wait, or I’ve got something better in mind. It’s a kind of a ‘no’, but it’s a no worth enduring. These are St. Paul’s words: “And to keep me from being too elated,” … right? And I was saying yesterday in the homily that God’s power is such that he can help us grow and keep us small, and that’s amazing … and that’s like him. He didn’t remain too elated by the abundance of revelation. Paul was a gifted man by God, both naturally and supernaturally. A thorn was given in the flesh. It could have been sin, it could have been physical, it could have been … we know he had a speech impediment … “a messenger of satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this.” You would think that Paul’s intercessory power would be very intense, and it is, but not enough to have this thorn removed.
It’s interesting that he even then calls it a thorn. Whatever it is, it’s also in the context of being Christ-like. Thorns … effects of sin being manifest. “There are three times I besought the Lord that it should be removed, and He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’” “You don’t need Me to take that away for now. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” God shows His power often by taking what is very small and making it into great things. That, more than anything, reveals His omnipotence. It’s interesting that the chief attribute that reveals God’s omnipotence is His mercy.
St. Catherine of Sienna struggled with this too and even questioned the Lord on this. “Why do You allow these wounds to be in place?” And He answers her by answering what He was doing in the life of Paul. “Sometimes my providence leads my great servants up pricking,” (the Italian, I think, is stimolos, or stimulus, but it’s a wound) “as I did to My gentle apostle, Paul.” This is from her Dialogue, paragraph 145. “I left him as pricking with resistance of his flesh. Could I, and can I not make it otherwise? In Paul, and in others in whom I weep this or that sort of wound? Yes. And why does My providence do this? – to give them opportunity for merit and to keep them in the self-knowledge whence they draw truth and humility, to make them compassionate instead of cruel, so that they will sympathize with their neighbors in their labors, for those who suffer themselves are far more compassionate to the suffering of others than those who have not suffered. They grow to greater love and run to Me with humility.” Remember, God shows His power by allowing us to grow and keeping us small. This wound points to our need, and we can run in our humility with this now greater love that’s ablaze because of the furnace of Christianity. “And through this means and endless others they attain perfect union, such union and knowledge of My goodness that, while they are still in their mortal bodies, they taste a reward of the immortals, that this is a way we taste heaven, even now. And whoever loves much will have great sorrow.”
Therefore, those whose love grows will know more sorrow. Why does He allow this? Oh, for God’s glory. This is my story, God’s conquered this … yeah, these are the effects of sin, the detours of my life, but it was not outside of God’s providence. He allowed it; he kept me safe from a whole bunch of other things in the meantime, and was with me through it all, redirecting, re-routing, and bringing me home. Certainly, wounds inflicted on others, and most especially the martyrs … we know this to be the case; I guess what we know to be the case is that others have thought this, that in heaven the wounds of the martyrs will be visible, and it comes from St. Augustine in The City of God, in Book 22, chapter 19, and he says – and this is so beautiful – “Why is it the saints bring this up? Because it’s a question they constantly have. Why is this the case? How is this part of Your providence?” “Why don’t you take this away?” says St. Paul, says St. Catherine, and here St. Augustine. So, we’ve gone from the first century, to the fourteenth century, to the fourth century, why this is a commonly occurring question in the lives of the saints. He says, “I cannot know why this is so.” Beautiful, honest … “I don’t know why this is.” “But the love we bear for the blessed martyrs makes us desire to see in the Kingdom of God the marks of the wounds which they received for Christ’s name, and it may be that we shall indeed see that, for this will not be a deformity but a badge of honor, and the beauty of their virtue, a beauty which is embodied but not in the body, not of the body, will shine forth in it. It will point to the glory of God.”
He goes on say, “What of those who had their limbs hacked off?” They’ll be restored, but there will be some mark of their glorious wounds visible, intuitive in their new immortal flesh. There are so many examples of saints, but we’re running out of time. One example is St. Josephine Bakhita, and you could look to Spe salvi, paragraph 3. Basically, her story is one that she was kidnapped, put into slavery, beaten until she bled, sold five times in slave markets, and as a result of this bore 144 scars to her upper limbs. She was brought to Italy, where she heard about a different paron thought to be Master, one that loves, one that suffers, that He actually loved her, knew her, created her. She too was loved, and by none other than this paron (this is all from Spe salvi, paragraph 3), before whom all other masters are themselves no more than servants, and we could add, all servants whom He now calls friends.
This Fr. Hofer, in an article I found in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (April 9, 2013), when people would express their pity for her, she would say that it’s her enemies that should be pitied, because they didn’t know Jesus. So, Fr. Hofer says, “Imagine Josephine in the happiness of heaven, the fulfilment of her hope, now with glorified wounds. She shows these glorious wounds to Jesus, as a triumph of victory with Him in forgiving sinners.” It was a way of her being Christ-like. “She shows these glorious wounds to other saints, as a particular badge of co-membership with them in the body of Christ.”
And then, we will complete then with this, and we’ll pick up basically where we leave off. This will work out well with our next talk, when we want to move into Christ, as a spoiler alert, because this is what He’s going to do, right? He comes back in the Resurrection and reveals His wounds. But one more sister of Christ, a child of God, and that’s St. Maria Goretti, and this is actually a response in an e-mail that I had written to one of my parishioners who objected to my using St. Maria Goretti as an example. In this context, I was preaching on the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ instructions to turn the other cheek. If someone presses you into service for one mile, go two. If someone demands your cloak, give him your shirt, and put this in the context then of an invitation to love with this open-heart wound, to love ultimately what God loves. And so, I’ll just read it, and you can certainly go back. My point in bringing her up was to illustrate a point in the Gospel – to turn the other cheek.
I was pointing out that God, in Christ Jesus, invites us to mirror the love of the Father. As children will often resemble their parents, we as God’s children are meant to love like God loves. God loves with this exceptional love, a love that offers His cheek to be struck, strips down and offers His clothes to be settled over by the casting of dice, and He carries His cross up Calvary. And I pointed out that this outrageous love doesn’t change when we realize that the Lord’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount are also a call to arms, to fight against injustice, but by means of our love. And this is the only way that injustice can be defeated, the only way that the cycle is broken. I pointed out that love draws attention to and even aggravates injustice. When we love, it highlights the injustice and makes it, in a sense, worse. Crimes committed against those we are meant to love are more severe and are punished accordingly. Christ does this. He is hit, but then asks, “Why do you strike Me? If I said something wrong, testify to the wrong, but if not then why do you strike Me?” … Because I love you. It aggravates and intensifies the insult. He invites us to turn the other cheek to invite our oppressor to add insult to injury. He invites those forced into service up to one mile to go two instead, thus highlighting and aggravating the oppression of the Romans over the Jews. He tells people to give up their cloak when the tax collector demands the shirt off your back, thus drawing attention to and aggravating these realities of oppression. His nail marks are a permanent reminder, not only of God’s outrageous love but also of the cruelty that human beings have, not just for one another, but for God, wounds that don’t go away, a permanent mark that purifies as much as it is a sign of God’s work of love, and I said this is how God loves. This is the context that I meant. This is how God loves, and this is how God’s children are called to love, and then we have St. Maria Goretti.
Hers is a story not only of forgiveness, but of a painful realization of the wounds that we inflict on one another. Perhaps you know some of her story … you probably know it better than I, but effectively she had drawn the attention of one of her father’s workers and he had broken into the house and tried to assault her, she resisted, and he killed her violently by stabbing her 14 times. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she eventually died. So her assailant knowingly stabs her 14 times, but she appears to him in prison and offers him 14 lilies. Such a strange story … he is in prison. We know what happens afterwards, that he did feel remorse, regret, and shame, and she gives lilies to him, one for each wound inflicted. Now this could be done in a passive-aggressive sense, but that’s not her story. This is the way that God loves. I forgive you … one, two, three … fourteen, each lily not only a sign of forgiving love, but also what I imagine to be then a pure, fine reminder of his crimes – painful, a little bit like looking into the wounds of Christ. I did that, but I have conquered it, and they now become a sign of his glory.
So hers is a story of power in spite of apparent weakness, not strong enough physically, so to speak, to overpower her assailant – he did take her life – but far more powerful spiritually in her capacity to share in the love of God. Her appearance to him is one of strength, of justice, of mercy, and of God’s amazing and pure fine love, and in our wounds we can see something of God, that our wounds allow a share in His life, that we have a power in Christ that can take anything and reveal the Heart of God, pierced and glorified.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.