The Wound in His Shoulder

“It is related in the annals of Clairvaux that St. Bernard asked our Lord which was His greatest
unrecorded suffering, and Our Lord answered, ‘I had on My Shoulder, which I bore My Cross
on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound, which was more painful than the others,
and which is not recorded by men.  Honor this wound with thy devotion….'”

I have been thinking about the wounds people carry, those unbearable weights that take their toll on our bodies and hearts.  I think of the old but not elderly woman who complained for months to her doctor about a cough, and when he finally got around to taking her seriously, discovered that cancer had taken over.  She was told she has only weeks to live. It is a wound of not having been taken seriously, as if facing death were not wound enough.

I think of the acquaintance whose young nephew has leukemia, his wearing those large, dark-ringed eyes and bald head of children living with chemo and cancer, her bearing worry and hope at the same time, the soul-vertigo that causes.

I think of that parent in Nigeria, those last shards of hope disintegrating, living in fear of Boko Haram and knowing that rage will only cause more trouble.

I think about the invisible responsibilities people choose to bear – the responsibility of caring for a brother who is mentally ill and a hoarder, who could at any moment be thrown out into the streets.  The young mom, a professional in a high-profile position, diagnosed with breast cancer and having to be the gracious face of positivism and faith when maybe, inside, there is terror and an absence of God.  The many who have put their hope and trust in the church only to have that trust broken in ways they believe can never, ever be mended.

People carry so much.  It takes a toll.

There’s the other weight, too – the weight of not being able to do one damn thing about the suffering.  It’s a secondary weight that is as heavy as the primary one, maybe: the weight of being left behind, alone; the weight of being powerless, the weight of not having stopped some part of the tear in the fabric of the world.

Our Roman Catholic friends have a novena about the shoulder wound of Christ – the wound caused by the weight of the cross he was forced to carry.  My shoulders ache at the thought of that.

It’s where our tension finds a home – the shoulders, the neck, the hardening of the occipital ridge.  It’s the pinch between the shoulder blades where those invisible weights claw dully at us, reminding us of our responsibility, of our need to carry some of this, of our need to own some of this.

Where is the relief?  Surely letting go of the burden lessens it some, but there is perpetual tension in those muscles.  Massage, heat, stretching, meditation: a relief, yes.  But a cure?

Perhaps we are never truly unburdened, at least not on this side of the grave.

jesus carry cross

How do we remember?.

To remember something is to put words and actions to the thought “this was important; this mattered; this changed things, for better or worse.”  Remembering can honor, but can also rehash.  Remembering can heal and can re-open the wound.

I don’t think that there’s a formula in remembering that will make it a healing thing rather than a hurting thing.  It may be more about the state of one’s heart, or the freshness of the event.  It may be about the individual’s experience.  It may just be what happens that day.

Today I remember having lunch with a minister colleague, trying to make sense of horrific images on the news.  I remember I was between pastoral calls, and making a plan about where I would go to church the next Sunday.  I remember reaching out to my loved ones, to make sure they were ok, as if any of us could be ok after those planes crashed into those buildings.

But most of the time, I don’t think about September 11, 2001.  Most of the time I go about my life, and occasionally say prayers for first responders, and occasionally grieve with those who grieve.  A friend of mine works at the 9-11 museum in New York.  Because of her work (and, I would say, her calling) she remembers every single day.

The premise of the novel The Giver is that after a cataclysmic, unnamed event, a society endows one person to hold the communal memory.  Only one person remembers the sorrows and horrors and joys of that people.  It’s a dystopian world, as you might expect.  But I remember that day and we  remember that day. For some that is healing, a testament to an ideal of American fortitude and resourcefulness.  For some, that memory is excruciating, and gives birth to reawakened fears and to sorrows that will never end.

I won’t bake cookies for the local fire station today, although if you do, that’s a kind thing.  I also won’t watch the news, because I never watch the news and because I don’t find a recitation of bad things good for my soul.  But I will be intentional about some things today.  I will work to be kind and gentle.  I will not make great pronouncements about things I know nothing about.  I will say prayers.  That’s how I will remember today.

“That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.”          Ecclesiastes 3:15

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