Curatio Retreat 2020
“Wounded Hearts Love Best”
Father Justin Kizewski
First Reflection – Friday Evening
“Wounded, I will never cease to love”
Let’s begin with prayer … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord Jesus, be with us, stay with us, reveal Your Heart to us, heal us. Help us to come to know You better, and in knowing You to love You more. Help us mirror Your love for those that we meet. We ask for the intercession of our patron saints, our guardian angels, and Mary, our mother. We ask for the Holy Spirit and all His gifts. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The theme of this retreat is “Wounded Hearts Love Best,” and obviously, just looking at the signs out front, this does get right to the heart of what this apostolate, it seems to me, is all about. You have this phrase, “Curatio ex Corde Christi; Healing from the Heart of Christ.” So, what do we know about this Heart? Well, without spoiling everything that I hope to say, we know that it is pierced, it is wounded for us. We know that blood and water is flowing out. We know that it’s the source of some of the most precious gifts to us, and we know that it’s an invitation – an open heart invitation – to come if you’re weary and if you’re burdened, and rest awhile. And the most explicit reference to His Heart, that’s the Lord’s invitation, so this open heart invitation to come and live in His Heart, live with Him, so that we can learn from Him. “Come, learn from Me,” He says. We can learn specifically how to love like Him and how to heal like Him.
So, I think we have five talks. The whole theme is “Wounded Hearts love Best,” and the first one is “Wounded, I will never cease to love.” We’ll get more into that. The second is “Some Wounds don’t heal,” and the third is “Behold such a heart.” The fourth is the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” and then the fifth will be “Come to Me.” And I’m surprised to give a talk on these things. I mean, it’s not exactly my first way of relating with the Lord. I tend to be headier; I tend to be more intellectual, I suppose. The heart – really talking about its woundedness – is not something that I do naturally; it’s certainly not something that I imagine myself doing, but given our time, given the great work that you do and the stresses that you encounter, and the truth that we are meant to love like Christ loves and we will look like Him, I think it’s an important theme.
So then, we thought of doing a bit of an introduction first, and we’ll do this very quickly and imminently, of just prayer in general, and then in this first talk after that just brief introduction of prayer, I hope to hit on some of the themes that will carry us through into adoration and also tee us up then for tomorrow. Feel free to ask questions. Oh, and then … a couple of caveats. There are opportunities for certainly confession, but also direction. I forget how it’s labeled, but we thought too just a brief word on that. Direction can be something that you do over a long period of time with a spiritual director and that’s going to be the most important, but if there are things that are stirring in your heart and you just want to have a spiritual conversation about those things, if you have questions that you would like to ask, those are the kinds of things that spiritual conversation or direction, or whatever you want to use that time for, that is what that’s intended for, so there are signups that are available, and someone will just have to point out where those are and where I need to be and when I need to be there. I’m not very organized and I’m chronically late, and I have other struggles that will be evident. All of my faults are evident almost immediately, so anyhow … I’m sorry for those. Pray for me … I’m a work in progress.
Try to enter in the silence, and if someone laid different ground rules than these follow those, but here are my suggestions, that as long as we kind of decide what silence means just follow that, and then it frees us a great deal of the worry or anxiety. So, I would say, feel free to acknowledge another person. You don’t have to do so with your voice, but you can do it with your eyes and especially the mouth most of the time. Smile with your eyes and then you can go on. If you need something at dinner or the meals or whatever, I’m not sure how necessary that will be, but anyhow feel free to somehow get attention. You can say a little word if you need something and don’t want to make a scene, and know that things will strike you as funnier than they would have if you could talk about them, and food, because the silence is our focus, will taste better, even if it was really good to begin with. So those are good ways the Lord blesses us. Certainly you can talk to me and we can find those moments; just pull me aside.
A little bit on prayer … and a good way to begin is where the catechism begins with prayer, and that is with God’s thirst, and it comes from John Chapter 4, the woman at the well. And He goes to her and says, “Give Me a drink.” She’s a Samaritan and he’s a Jew; that wouldn’t normally happen. Jews don’t speak to Samaritans; we all know these things, because these stories are pretty familiar, I suspect. He’s asking her for a drink. You see, the catechism talks about prayer as God’s thirst meeting our thirst, and God’s thirst for us is always first. “Give Me a drink.” “Come unto Me.” “If you knew the gift of God and who it was who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” So right there we’ve got this sense of what prayer might look like. “Give Me a drink.” And then we, in turn, ask Him for a drink, and He gives living water, which we find out is the Holy Spirit a few lines later. And drinking, thirsting and quenching our thirst, is an image that Josef Pieper in this book “Happiness and Contemplation” uses as an image for happiness. He says, “If we understand happiness as the quenching of a thirst, we must forthwith recognize that the thirsty looks away from himself and he seeks something else, that which produces happiness and is something outside of the soul.” And so, there’s this notion that the thirst that yearns for happiness also relates to sin. It’s a mixing of metaphors or images, but it’s very, very true. The activity which we receive, the drink which is happiness, is by nature an activity whose effects work inward. So it’s something that we see, we bring in, and it becomes part of us, so we are wanting to see.
So, how do we pray? What’s a brief introduction to prayer? Well, these instructions come from St. Francis de Sales in his “Introduction to the Devout Life”, and I find it very helpful and there are similar kinds of directions, methods that you’ll find in St. Ignatius, that you’ll find in the spiritual classics, but basically there are these general pieces of prayer, but first you have to prepare to pray, to get ready to pray, and so the first step is going to be preparation. And the perhaps best way to prepare is just to put yourself in the presence of God, draw your attention to God’s presence, and St. Francis de Sales uses the image of a blind man in a king’s court. So you’re in the king’s court and, if you’re blind, you don’t see, and so the king comes in and maybe the trumpets or whatever, but basically that’s the point. You need attention to be brought to the fact that the king is there.
On a side note, I was once working with Mother Teresa’s sisters in Washington, D.C., as I was going to school at Catholic University, and I was helping a fellow that was blind and I laid his food out in front of him and I said, “How does that look?” Anyway, he had a great sense of humor and he said, “I don’t know; I can’t see.”
So we put our thoughts in God and it’s like we’re blind and we need to be alerted to His presence. Hey, the King is here. You could consider how He lives in you, and I love the scene from the Lion King movie, or the musical had this song too. He tells him to look at the water and he looks and just sees his reflection, and he says, “Look harder.” He looks harder and then he sees Mufasa. “You see, he lives in you.” So, that’s a way. You could think of how Jesus looks at you from His humanity, in His humanity, how He looks on all, how He looks on all Christians as siblings, as members of this new way of being God’s family. “Who are My mother, My brother and My sister? … those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Think specifically how the Lord looks with kindness and generosity on those at prayer; think of how He looks at people at prayer, who are fascinated by His prayer, so much so that the apostles asked Him, “Teach us how to pray.” Never underestimate the power of the Our Father.
Imagine Jesus in His humanity as if He were sitting next to you. You can imagine this, but if we are in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we have the Blessed Sacrament and it’s not imaginary; it’s real. Christ is here. So, in this first step, you prepare yourself, like God is here, and often when I preach homilies I’ll encourage folks at the beginning of the homily to make an act of faith and say something like, “Amen. I believe; I believe that God is here.” “Amen. I believe that God is at work.” “Amen. I believe that God speaks.” “Amen. I believe that God speaks to me.”
These are always preparatory and they’re all different. You don’t have to do them all, but do some sort of getting yourself ready to pray and just sit down and pray. But you need to kind of disengage a bit from the world. I just saw this – it is in Mother Teresa and Me and is a quotation: “It’s not that God isn’t speaking to you; it’s that you have the world turned up too loud and you can’t hear Him.” But then invoke God’s assistance, and so take the Liturgy of the Hours as a great example of how to prepare for prayer. We have preparation in the Liturgy of the Hours; it’s sort of built right in. “Oh, God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” That’s a great way to begin all prayer. The Church seems to know what she’s doing when she asks us to begin that way in her prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours.
Then you’re going to have some subject of the mystery, some perhaps imagination, some scene perhaps if it’s a Bible verse or Gospel passage. You can think through that; it’s often called the composition of place, but sometimes you wouldn’t use the imagination. Sometimes it’s a truth of the faith or a conversation that you want to have with the Lord. Then you get into the second part, and it’s a consideration. And what you’re doing in this combination of vocal prayer and meditative prayer is trying to mine your thoughts, or the Scriptures, or whatever you have for your meditation – perhaps it’s something that went on in your day – you’re mining for a truth to consider. People will say the happy man is the one who sees, and so we’re mining for that consideration, that little nugget of truth when we become aware of reality and we go, “Aha!” And then we consider it and we look at it from different angles. That’s the consideration. This is how it looks if you’re thinking of a mystery when you pray the rosary. If you’re going through lines in the Our Father, maybe you get stuck on one and it’s good to get stuck. Stay there … Our Father … and then you’ve got that little nugget.
Then the third part is always going to be the most important part of prayer actually, when prayer really becomes prayer, and that is the affection or resolution. You see, prayer has to land in your will; it has to land in the part that we don’t even perhaps know we’re composed. We’ve got these powers of intellect and will, and intellect does a great deal for us in the consideration piece, but prayer properly speaking has to rest in your will. It has to elicit some act of your will. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Usually it’s in kind of four basic moments of prayer, and may be summarized in this way: sorry, please, thank you, wow! Those are the four kinds of prayer … reparation, when we’re contrite and we’re asking for mercy. “I’m sorry.” That’s a movement of the will. Something is lodged into our heart and then it’s like, “Oh, my … I’m sorry.” Or it’s a “Please, please help.” “Petitions,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “are among the most effective prayers, because that’s the prayer of a friend.” Who do you go to when you need something dearly, a stranger or a friend? So it goes like, “I won’t trouble God. God is too busy for me.” You’re putting so much limitation on God. He is so much more than what you think Him to be, if you think you’re bothering Him.
But where do you go when you really need something? You call a friend. You call up to Him. So petition is just that, and the bigger the request the happier the Lord is to come to you in it. Please, thank you, gratitude … “Thank You, Lord. Thank You for Your goodness,” and then, “Wow!” So, we’ve got reparation or contrition, we’ve got petition, we’ve got thanksgiving, and here we have adoration or praise. “Wow, You’re amazing.” An act of love, an act of sorrow … these are all kinds of resolutions, something that’s got to get drawn out and has to be stirred up in our hearts. And then finally we would conclude, and basically it’s taking inventory of our prayer, and there’s not a set amount of time for each of these steps. You may not get through all of them, but it’s good to have some sense of a method of what we’re trying to do when we sit down to pray. First I’m going to get ready. “Lord, I believe that You’re here. I’m glad that You’re speaking to me. God, come to my assistance.” And then we might in the content, as we’re praying the rosary, or thinking of a prayer, or conversing with God, or imagining a Bible scene or a Gospel scene, or considering a truth of the faith, or going through an aspect of our day, or whatever the content is, and then it rests in those many ways but with some aspect of the heart. It’s good to have the conversations with the Lord, angels, saints, ourselves, our own hearts, sinners, creatures, all of these kinds of things. When you think of creatures you’re like, “How do you do that?” St. Francis had that, when he called Sister Moon and Brother Sun.
Anyway, then the fourth part … so, we’ve done the preparation, the consideration, the affection, the resolution, and the conclusion. So, we would always then conclude with an inventory. Okay, what happened in my prayer? “Thank You, Lord, for being present here.” Then we would make an act of offering. “Here I am, Lord. I come to do Your will.” We would continue to pray for ourselves, the Church, our pastors, relatives, friends, others, asking for the intercession of the saints, and then close with perhaps some vocal prayer, the Our Father or Hail Mary, or the Sub Tuum Praesidium, one of the earliest ways of speaking to Our Lady – “We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God,” “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.” “Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.”
Father Michael Gaitley points out, and I’ve seen others now do it too, that in the Memorare we’ve got … “Never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided.” I’m not going to be the first; you’re not going to be the first. It’s like everyone except me; no, it’s not that way. And then, I think this is particularly helpful from St. Francis de Sales when he says, “Collect the graces into a bouquet for yourself, put it in a vase, and carry the vase home.” So, it’s an image of gathering what was done in your prayer and then it will continue to figure through the day, or the next day if you pray at night. Obviously, an understood implicit premise here is that you pray. There’s no way around this; we have to pray.
I didn’t actually get to the main point. Let me say just these things. Think of where the Lord has healed people, healed them of their inner demons, their inner voices, healed them of some physical ailments … I have a running list here. We’ve got the woman at the well and the rest of the story here. We’ve got Jairus’ daughter, the fellow that goes to the Lord and he tries to get His attention, and the Lord is just torn in all of these directions, and He’s making His way to the daughter, but He kind of lingers on the way and meets the hemorrhaging woman, and she’s been suffering for years with her ailment. Nicodemus is the fellow in John, Chapter 3, with whom Jesus talks, and he is a leader of the community of the Jews and a scribe. He just kind of knows his stuff, and then the Lord targets his intellectualism, perhaps his intellectual pride, and says, “Have you not read this?” This is a scribe; of course he has read it all. “Have you not read this? Do you know this passage, this really famous passage in Scripture?” … that’s basically the Lord to Nicodemus. That would hurt … ouch. Peter … I mean, one of the reasons that we feel so bad when he falls is we probably had a higher expectation of the kind of person he was. That can hurt. It can be so human and healthy to get a clear picture of ourselves. Martha’s anxiety … and she’s encouraged that her sister has chosen the one necessary thing and that it won’t be taken from her.
I mean, that’s perhaps where a lot of us are, and so then when we’re anxious we want to deprive others of their peace and we need to really watch that. Don’t let anything deprive you of that peace, and don’t be an agent of depriving someone else of their peace. At any point, Martha could have asked for help. Instead, she waits way too long beyond any semblance of charity and then goes to the Word made flesh, “Lord, do You not care that I am here suffering?” Of course He cares; of course He knows. He knows everything. Her service perhaps allowed Mary to have that one necessary thing. Maybe she could have contextualized it that way, or maybe if she was really burdened, if she had asked her sister for help, are we sure that Mary wouldn’t have gotten up to help? No, I think she would have.
The stories of healing always point to the wound. That’s where the Lord wants to enter; that’s what He wants to heal. So, in this “Wounded, I will never cease to love,” the idea is ultimately being kind of open, that same openness before the Lord that He is open before us. St. Augustine says, in a place that I can’t find … I don’t remember where I read this; I mean, it’s all on the internet, but with no reference … sometimes that would suggest that it’s maybe not St. Augustine, like St. Francis’ line of “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.” It’s a great phrase, but he never said it, which I guess is the point. He communicated that somehow without ever saying it – that’s brilliant! But St. Augustine apparently said, “In my deepest wound, I saw Your glory and it dazzled me,” a kind of open invitation for the Lord, right? So then the phrase, “Wounded I will never cease to love” comes from a group of sisters in Rome, the Little Sisters of the Lamb; this is their motto for their order – “Wounded I will never cease to love.” And I’m sure that you can add new meaning to it.
Here’s a couple that, after listening to them and certainly thinking about it myself that I’ve come to: “Though wounded, I will not stop loving,” so a kind of resolution, I will not give up, not ever, not for anything, and when the sisters would talk about this, they would often put it in this context of being wounded by another sister or someone you like and you are insulted by somebody, and then what happens? What do you want to do? You feel that little nuisance, like “I’ll show you!” But then we try to catch ourselves and say, “No. Ouch, that hurt, but wounded I’m not going to stop loving.”
And then there’s another sense of the spiritual physics that Schafer will talk about, “Because I’m wounded, I’m needy.” The spiritual physics is what he talks about, but what I’m trying to get at here is because I am wounded I am needy … I need help. I’m a work in progress. There are so many things that I don’t have worked out. I squander so much that the Lord gives. Most of the wounds that I mentioned in that listing of Bible healings, so wounds that needed healing, well I’ve got most of them.
Then there’s a song that’s on the Christian radio, but it just really does get to it. It’s “I’m thankful for the scars.” The group is I am They. “I’m thankful for the scars, because without them I wouldn’t know your heart.” And the Lord’s, talking about His scars, they would open up His heart too. That is what is allowing us to see His heart … His open heart … and allows us to effectively climb inside and then dwell there, live with Him. We’re talking of our own scars and are thankful for them. “I can see; I can see how You delivered me. In Your hands and Your feet, I found my victory.” And it concludes with, “I’m thankful for Your scars.”
Ultimately it’s a kind of vulnerability before the Lord, and I don’t know if we like this word or if we don’t like this word, it just means woundability. Vulnus in Latin means wound, and there is something in this book called Spiritual Direction that’s actually very helpful; whether it’s for someone who gives direction or someone who is in direction, I think it is helpful for that, and it’s a guide for sharing the Father’s love, but it points out that when a big hulking man starts to cry … or when a successful businessman awkwardly communicates tender love to his wife … these are all examples from his book of this openness … of that thirst. It pierces our senses and reaches our hearts; that’s what we’re looking for, so that at that level we can meet the Lord and then He can speak to our hearts. And the causes of the wounds I can go into next time, but ultimately here is the lesson that these wounds, whatever they may be, whether they be caused from our sin or the sin of others, or disappointment, or even something positive like love or beauty – these things wound – the woundedness, particularly as replacing the kindness of God. It’s because of our association with Christ that this happens and that this has value. Nothing is wasted. We think of the multiplication of the loaves and they go and collect all of the pieces to make sure nothing is lost.
And then Psalm 119, verse 71, says, “It is good that I was afflicted,” or in Peter 5:7 it says, “Cast your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” John 11:33-35 says Jesus wept, and Revelation 21:3-4 talks about Him wiping away every tear from our eyes. The Lord wants to heal you where you need it, and He will meet you there and then will help you grow in your loving like Him, in your looking like Him, and will help you experience His thirst to have your thirst quenched. It will help you see. Thank you for the scars, because without them I wouldn’t know Your heart. I know they tell of who You are, so forever I’m thankful for the scars. I can see how You delivered me in Your hands and Your feet. I am victor; I can see.
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.
Homily – Friday Evening
First Reading (Eccl 3:1-11):
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for everything under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task that God has appointed for the sons of men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
A reading from the Holy Gospel, according to Luke:
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Lk 9:18-22)
As I prayed about this homily to begin our retreat together, I thought of playing The Byrds’ song, (For Every Season) “Turn! Turn! Turn!” And then I thought better of it and realized maybe there isn’t an appointed time for everything. It has its appropriate spot, just not here. But I would encourage us, if we have time later this evening, to revisit this first reading and the Gospel. Some of them are easily enough understood. “A time to be born, a time to die” … those are definitive times. We are born; we will – all of us – die. None of us get out of this alive, that’s true, but there are lines here that are perhaps more difficult to interpret. A time to kill? … when would that time be? A time to weep, to mourn – we know those … a time to tear down, to scatter?
Whenever we were presented with a difficult passage, the Fathers of the Church would interpret it spiritually – morally – and spiritualize the meaning. So, it’s appropriate for sure, from time to time, to kill sin; to tear down walls that we have built up; to scatter worry and leave it far from us, because the Lord has invited you all here. “Come away with me for a little while,” He’ll say to His apostles. He says that to you. And have this conviction among yourselves that the Holy Spirit has brought you here to encounter the Lord in His Heart, which will be an overriding theme of the weekend. So it’s fitting that we have a votive Mass today dedicated to His Sacred Heart. I’ll have more to say on it later, so I’m not preaching on it now, but His Heart that yearns for you has invited you here to be with Him, to live for a couple of nights, a couple of days, in a house where He lives, to take you away from what otherwise might cause you anxiety. Those will be there when you get back, but for now, to the best we can, we leave them behind.
I think the key phrase here in this First Reading is this: that He has put the timeless into their hearts, without one’s every discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. Why is it that God’s work happens so often imperceptibly? It will be this way for this weekend, largely – let’s hope not exclusively – because it would seem to make sense, Lord. Lord, why don’t you give us some sign of Your working? Make Your Presence known, so that … and from time to time, He’ll do that, so that we’re encouraged, so that we’re aware of His Presence, but so often He does something that is uniquely of God. He can make us grow while keeping us small, and that’s impressive, that we could grow in holiness and we could grow in friendship with Him, without hardly knowing it ourselves. In this way, He keeps us small while He helps us grow, and so mirror the one who is the biggest, All Powerful Creator of Heaven and Earth, and also the most humble, the smallest.
Mother Teresa will say the sign of the greatest is that they can make themselves the smallest, and that’s the Kingdom. We have to trust and put it in the context of Providence, and this is why the Lord in the Gospel only talks about His Passion once the apostles have affirmed their faith in His Divinity. “Who do people say that I am?” It’s interesting that they have the same phrases that were in yesterday’s Gospel, but about Herod – the same answers; it’s what people are saying. “Some say John the Baptist; some say Elijah; some say one of the prophets.” “Who do you say that I am?” Well, you’re the Christ; “You’re the Son of the Living God.” Make that your statement of faith.
We all have to answer this for ourselves; who is He for me? Is He Lord, is He God, is He shepherd, is He friend? He is all of those things, but once they affirm His Divinity, they confess His Divinity – Well, You’re God; You’re the Lord – then He says, “Okay, that being established, trust in that, because the next one is hard. I’ll have to go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, and be killed.” In the context of who He is, it can be understood. There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. Any difficulty is in the context of His Providence, and we’ll see it as such if we can make that act of faith. You’re God, You’re here, You’re with me … what next?
Homily – Saturday morning
While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
As Catholics, we take Saturdays to honor Our Lady, and so we do so here this morning. Saturdays are dedicated to her because of her faith on Saturday. The danger here, at least in my mind, is to mince the great richness of our Catholic faith and all of the human nuances that are part of these devotions of the Catholic faith in spite of great pain. She followed her Son co-willed, in the sense of acceptance, and in spite of the pain in watching her Son be tortured, reviled, hated, with this knowledge that He is God, the One who simultaneously was sustaining each of those sinners, whom she also loved, in existence, continuing to pour gifts on those who were afflicting him and her. And, in spite of this great pain, she stood. The hymn was “Mary was standing”; the Mother of Jesus was standing, the Stabat Mater. She was standing there, and that’s a position of strength, not to minimalize the pain of losing her Son, because we know she suffered. She suffers on account of what she sees; it is predicted by Simeon in the temple, “Your heart too a sword will pierce.” When Jesus’ heart is pierced with the lance and this moment of Divine Mercy is revealed when the blood and water come flowing from His heart, the one who feels it is Mary. He’s dead. She’s standing at the Cross. She sees the soldier take the lance and thrust it into her Son’s heart, and her heart is pierced.
We’ve been talking of this invitation to love like God loves so that our hearts might reveal His, even in our woundedness. Our Lady, who doesn’t suffer from the wounds of her own personal sins, certainly suffers from the effects of ours, and her heart mirrors His. His is pierced with a lance; hers by the sword. He is crowned with thorns; she is crowned as queen. The two hearts reflect one another, and I’m struck by how much their sufferings either anticipate, even in their own integrity, dimensions – the word I want isn’t there – the joys that are soon to come or are even simultaneously present.
I’ve had a growing devotion over these last few weeks to Our Lady of Sorrows. We just celebrated this feast a few weeks ago, and again, those seven sorrows that we’re invited to meditate on are either immediately succeeded by or even simultaneously accompanied by joy. What do I mean? Well, the seven sorrows, really quickly: The Prophecy of Simeon; that’s the first sorrow, and it’s also the Presentation in the Temple. So, the sorrows and joys – they go together, and they are indicative of the Heart of Christ and of Mary. The next sorrow, the Flight into Egypt whereby prophecies are fulfilled – there is a great act of obedience and humility on Our Lady’s part with that episode. The Angel Gabriel had come to her and invited her to share God’s plan, and knowing the heart of her husband, Joseph, her yes is his yes, so it isn’t an isolated thing. It wasn’t as though she went back and said, “Well, I made a decision for us; I hope it’s okay.” No, that’s not what happened. She knows Joseph’s heart; it’s a heart after the mind of God, a heart after God’s own Heart. Her yes is his yes, and so she accepts, but then the angel, when it comes time to flee, goes to Joseph. Even in the phrase, “and the angel departed from her,” I have sometimes used to, on occasion, imagine that the angel doesn’t come back, that she has gotten enough of what she needs in the angel’s invitation at the Incarnation to carry her through all of it, so it’s an occasion of meditation, certainly not anywhere official. But certainly we don’t have record of then when Joseph says, “Honey, we’ve got to move,” that she was also accompanied by an angel. She’s not like, “Oh, an angel told me too.” What she doesn’t say is “What? The last time, the angel talked to me.” She doesn’t say that; she follows, and now Joseph’s yes is hers.
In different human relationships, each one of these could be a wound, but by them the prophecies are fulfilled. The very next one is the loss of Jesus for three days. It corresponds to the Finding in the Temple, and by it the Lord prepares her. He is always preparing her for her unique sharing in His Passion. Three days he disappears; he is returned on the third day. What joy would have been the Finding in the Temple, and after she hears His account of all these things, she holds all these things in her heart. The episodes and the pain associated with them, she considers them, meditates on them, derives the Lord’s will from them, and she considers all of these things in her heart. So, when it would come time, she is able to share these stories. “Let me tell you about my Son’s Heart.” So she does; she tells Luke, who tells us.
This is a reflection of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is quoting St. John Chrysostom, I believe – “Upon seeing God the Father speak to the crowd gathered at Christ’s baptism, ‘This is My Beloved Son … Listen to Him,’ it is empowered to elicit the Lord’s divine power at the Wedding of Cana. One wonders why she didn’t ask for a miracle beforehand; it seems like it would be a very convenient thing to do. When things go poorly, like “Please, Son, would You take care of this?” There is no record of it, as I’m sure there would be, until the Wedding of Cana, His first miracle. Because having been given the green light by the Father, now knowing the Father’s Heart and knowing the Father’s Will, Our Lady can then go, “They have no wine,” again the Lord instructing her, forming her, preparing her to share in His Passion. “My hour has not yet come. What has your concern to do with Me?” – meaning implicitly that, when My hour does come, your concern will have a great deal of meaning for Me.
The other sorrows – the Carrying of the Cross, and we know that there is a meeting on the way between those two, consoling one another. Then the Crucifixion, He is taken down from the Cross and laid in her lap and it becomes the Pieta. Michelangelo’s Pieta is an altarpiece, and Mary is in a sense sharing in the offering of her Son, offering Him at the altar, and you could almost see Him sliding off her lap in front of the altar – her share, her participation in His offering, and the Body that is offered has all the features of a Greek god except that He’s dead. It is inviting us to participate in His Passion and so to receive divine light in the Eucharist – the Pieta. And last – Jesus is laid in the tomb and anticipates then the Resurrection. Our Lady’s heart mirrors His, loves like His, is now glorified like His, and offers us a share in His suffering, a share in His life, a share in the way He loves.