My task is to reflect with you on the family, a home for the wounded heart. (Sighs.) I will try my best. First I will invite you to consider the different type of wounds that we experience and encounter. Then we will turn to Jesus the wounded one, whose ministry included healing. Then we will turn to the church, the body of Christ, made up of wounded people but called to share in the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then I will offer a few tips on how we can be missionaries of healing to persons, to our families and to our church.
Some consideration of wounded hearts
The heart is not just an organ of the body, we are talking here about wounded people, all of us. No one can claim not to have been wounded. We all are wounded. There are different types of wounds, some physical, some spiritual, some emotional, some relational, some financial. And there are different causes and consequences in all of these, which we do not have time to go into now. But whatever the nature of the wound it always affects the family and consequently also a person’s social relationships.
All wounds hurt. But wounds are more painful when we see our family members suffering. When someone inflicts a wound on our family member we are also wounded. Most hurtful are the wounds inflicted on us by our own family members. The sacredness of the family is wounded by that, when siblings fight over money, over property, for a principle. What type of principle is that when a principle is more important than a person? But this is the mystery of it all: when homes are hurt by wounds, it is also the home that is the privileged place for comforting and healing wounded hearts. The wounds may come from the family but the family is also a source of healing. The wounds that affect our families are many, immense and deep. To give some examples: financial constraints, unemployment, destitution, lack of access to basic human needs, lack of education, economic and political policies that do not help families, failed relationships, infidelity, sickness, disabilities, social, cultural, even religious exclusion or discrimination, human trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, the abuse of women, prostitution, new forms of human slavery, wars, ethnic conflicts, climactic calamities, forced migration, displacement of people. All of these wound people and families. From your specific contexts maybe you can add to this list. Open your eyes, listen to the cries of the wounded. See the wounds and the causes of those wounds. Wounds make families and communities vulnerable to exploitation, despair. Some people fall into crime etc. Interior division, and the external divisions, all lead to alienation. I do not know who I am anymore, if I am accepted. I do not belong, I do not have a home. A home is not measured by how many acres on which your house sits. A home is the gift of a loving presence.
I remember a song from my youth:
A chair is still a chair Even when there’s no one sittin’ there But a chair is not a house And a house is not a home When there’s no one there to hold you tight And no one there you can kiss goodnight A room is a still a room Even when there’s nothin’ there but gloom But a room is not a house And a house is not a home When the two of us are far apart And one of us has a broken heart Now and then I call your name And suddenly your face appears But it’s just a crazy game When it ends, it ends in tears Pretty little darling, have a heart Don’t let one mistake keep us apart I’m not meant to live alone Turn this house into a home When I climb the stairs and turn the key Oh, please be there Sayin’ that you’re still in love with me A home, a loving presence, the gift of a loving presence. Which leads us now to Jesus Christ.
The ministry of Jesus
Central to the proclamation is the healing of the sick. The dawning of the kingdom is very often accompanied by signs and wonders especially those of healing. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus proclaimed the good news and healed every sickness. He instructed the twelve to do the same.
Good news is manifested in healing, reconstituting relationships, bringing back a girl to life and restoring her to her family. When God rules, people are saved, served with care, wounds are attended to. You see this in the Synoptics, in the gospel of St. John, a pattern in Jesus’ mission, of proclaiming by healing. Jesus is moved with compassion. Included is his anger towards the evil that befalls a person. Then comes faith but Jesus usually tells people to be quiet, not to tell anyone. The healer comes to proclaim the kingdom of God, not himself or herself. The proclamation of oneself is of this world, it inflicts wounds. But Jesus’ kingdom is always humble, compassionate, loving. Some fathers of the church say that in the Good Samaritan Jesus was really talking about himself, even an enemy I will love and care for. Remember, in the parable the Samaritan was considered an enemy of the Jews. But if you want to heal, the test is, will you even heal your enemy but Jesus stops and heals even those who plan to persecute him. Remember he washes the feet of his disciples including those who planned to betray him. Why? That is the way of the kingdom of God, very different from the ways of the kingdoms of this world.
In Luke’s gospel we have the three parables of mercy about lost objects: sheep, coin, son. But the three parables end with joy, feasting, because the lost one is now found, is coming home. In the first parable, the lost sheep probably was sick or wounded. From a purely economic reason the shepherd should not leave unattended the 99 healthy ones. That wounded sheep is really a liability. But why would the shepherd look for that sheep? Why the woman look for one coin? Why the father welcome with such extravagance the lost son? For only one reason: the sheep, the wounded and lost sheep, is my own. It is mine, and if it cannot come home, I will carry it home. The elder brother castigated the father, but the father says, he is your brother. The father wants the family to be whole and it won’t be whole if the lost brother will not be accepted. If you cannot come home, I will carry you home. But Jesus does not heal only the symptoms of our wounds, he does not save us from our vulnerability and woundedness, he saves us in our vulnerability and woundedness. In his incarnation he embraced a wounded world, he experienced being hunted down by a politician, being branded as crazy, not having a home, the taunt, the ridicule, even from religious leaders. He experienced the betrayal of a friend, the humiliating death on a cross, given only to criminals. And he was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus heals by being wounded.
Even the resurrected Christ still has his wounds. They will not disappear. So if we are all wounded, noone can say I have no gift of healing. Our wounds create in us avenues of understanding, compassion, solidarity and love. Don’t think that in the resurrection our wounds will disappear, especially if they are scars of compassion etc because the risen one possesses those marks of his love for us all.
The body of Christ
So the church, the body of Christ, present in every local congregation, like the parish, the diocese, religious order and most especially the family, the home, the domestic church.
Being the body of Christ the church shares in Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the reign of God through solidarity. If one members suffers, all members suffer with them, if one is healed, all share their joy. The church of wounded members becomes a church of solidarity and compassion, especially in their wounds. Nowadays the redemptive mission of the church must be invested in the church becoming disciples of authentic persons, capable of self-sacrificing love, as this type of community will prevent alienation, loneliness, woundedness. Self-sacrificing love. In Lumen Gentium it says the church is the sacrament of the intimate communion, of God and humanity, and human beings among themselves. Intimate communion and not alienation. You are not there to alienate further. You are there to unite and reconcile. Think of the tmage of the four friends in the gospel of Mark letting down their friend through the roof. That’s the church, no one gives up. I won’t give up! We won’t give up leading people to the healing touch of Jesus.
Some paths that we could take
First, we can promote Jesus redemptive mission inaugurating the reign of God as a home for the wounded hearted. We must recognise that all healing comes from God. Second, healing works best situated in a community, without forgetting the wounded person. He or she must be courageous in taking the steps towards healing. We mustn’t forget the liturgical aspect, nor the ethical dimension. Image of church as a field hospital. If we are serious about healing in a field hospital setting we must keep in touch with Jesus the chief physician. We must recognise our own wounds, they enable us to be compassionate. We should not be afraid of the dark. Wounds are never clean, they can be bloody.
Fourth we must accept that the church is a field hospital, we must be ready to respond in emergency situations, we must be agile. Fifthly we must infuse the field hospital with hope. We cannot be healers if we look desperate. So smile please.
Sixth, often when we try to help Jesus we just have to be quiet, we have no solutions, so providing a loving presence for discernment is essential. The Cardinal then told a story of a lady from Burma, who suffered a great deal in the war. The final line was: I was not the only one crying. That’s home for the wounded heart, he concluded.