Our wounds and our hope

Effie Caldarola
CNS photo



A story about St. Teresa of Avila tells us that, one day, the devil appeared to her in the guise of Christ.

Immediately, she dismissed him. You are not Christ, she told the devil. The devil was puzzled. How did you know I wasn't Christ?

Because, Teresa replied, you have no wounds.

It's an old story, perhaps a legend; but we know Teresa did fight the good fight with the evil one.

The tale reveals much about our Easter encounters with Christ, our world today and our own wounded lives.

The world is full of wounded-ness. The situation in Ukraine drags on, the scenes of mass graves and old women weeping make us want to turn away. The old mantra about war, "never again," appears buried in the rubble of Mariupol.

And wounded-ness haunts our country as well. Income inequality, the lack of health care, the lies about a stolen election, our own centuries of racism; all these things reveal our pain.

Amid sorrow, the Easter season gives hope and teaches us the value of wounds. The risen Christ is often unrecognizable to his disciples, but he invariably carries with him one clear badge of identification: his wounds.

Put your finger in my wounds, Thomas, he tells his doubting friend. It seems very important to the resurrected Jesus that his wounds be seen.

It's almost as if Jesus is reminding us that we all carry wounds. Wounded-ness is part of life and can't be airbrushed away to make the picture prettier. We're a product, in part, of the wounds we've suffered and endured. Sometimes the world inflicts them, sometimes they're self-inflicted.

Jesus was wounded, and he understands wounded-ness. In a worldly sense, he failed, and he understands failure and disappointment because he encountered them on a cross.

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister said, "Hope is the ability to believe that good can happen out of anything."

Indeed, if good came from the brutal crucifixion and humiliating death of Jesus, good can come from our wounds as well.

That's why we get up each day and say with the Benedictines, "Always we begin again."

Jesuit Joseph Whelan wrote, in a famous prayer, that love "decides what will get you out of bed in the mornings."

Think of how Peter must have felt in the presence of the risen Lord, a friend he had denied just days before. And yet, how Jesus loved him and saw beyond his failures. If we can just feel Jesus loving us and our wounded-ness in the same way, think of the power of hope and good we can unleash.

So, we continue to fight for legislation that limits fossil fuels and counters climate change. We offer life-giving hope to women caught in challenging pregnancies. We write to death row inmates and lobby for an end to the death penalty.

We express our hopes for the church by participating honestly in synod discussions. We volunteer at the food pantry. We wake up each morning, not hiding our wounds, but sharing them with a wounded world. We wake up ready to love.

Mother Teresa's famous quote reminds us, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

Teresa of Avila understood that to be human is to carry wounds, and that Christ has suffered with us in his humanity. It is human to hurt and hurt can lead to growth.

So, we get busy. Not navel-gazing at our own and the world's failures, but asking each morning, How can I love more and be part of the miracle of hope?

Effie Caldarola writes for the Catholic News Service column "For the Journey."