After Holy Communion one Sunday, I rested my head in my hands, my fingers lightly touched my temples and I expected to feel pimples. They weren't there. I am in my forties and there should not be any pimples on my face, so them not being there was no surprise. The surprise was that I expected them to be.
Back in my high school years I had pretty bad acne. What was interesting about this Sunday worship was that I had just spent the time forgiving a friend from those high school days. A particular moment had come to mind. My friend and I sat on the hard, wooden, gym floor in our basketball uniforms waiting for our game to start, when she said something very hurtful to me. Our friendship, already on the rocks, ended there.
For all these years without realizing it, I have carried her hurtful words, and that moment of rejection, in my in my heart. It has hovered around every friendship and relationship since. A quiet, insidious presumption lingered and I believed that any new friendship would end badly, like many others before, because, somehow, I am was not lovable.
This wound, like most emotional wounds, lodged like a thorn in my heart. The pain from the initial hurt got stuck and any incidents that resembled that first pain got caught on that thorn and also stuck in that spot. The barb became a nice hook to hang more hurts on until I gathered enough to identify myself by that wound. This may be true of all emotional wounds. We can sort of become our hurts, "I am annoying," or "I am a loser," or "I am unlovable." Then, like a well-worn path, many of our life choices and how we respond to new situations are dictated by these past hurts.
When I study the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I find consolation for my own wounded heart. The images above are the pictures that hang in my dining room and in many Catholic homes around the world. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, is crowned with the thorns of his passion, and drips the blood from the wounds of His crucifixion. Mary's Immaculate Heart, although only crowned with flowers in the picture I have (above), is often pictured with a sword piercing through it as well. This brings to the viewers mind Simeon's prophecy when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to be presented in the temple, "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:35).
The month of September is devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows which draws on the same theme. Images of the Sorrowful Mother can be shocking because her heart is pierced, not just with one sword, but with seven. Each sword represents her Seven Sorrows. These sorrows are the hard things Mary suffered during her life, including the horrific death of her only son.
It strikes me that the pure hearts of Jesus and Mary did not deserve to be wounded as mine did (and still does). I was not innocent on that gym floor when those cruel words pierced my own heart. There had been many times before, and many more since, that my own sins have wounded others' hearts and further damaged my own. But, in these images there is also fire. The flames that leap out of the tops of Jesus' and Mary's hearts represent their burning love for me, and for every person. They endured undeserved suffering out of love. Their suffering and their wounded hearts are a total gift of selfless love. My own wounds, sins, and weaknesses can be consumed by the fire of Divine Love if I have the courage allow it.
What can I do now but weep for my own sins and for the wounds I've created in others' hearts and in my own. My only response is to seek forgiveness from those I've hurt and from the Divine whose heart burns for love of me. Then, I too must learn to practice selfless love of God and others, to put others before myself, to sit at the lowest seat at the table, be a servant to all. Like a child learning to talk, or walk or read, progress in selfless love can be slow and frustrating. But, these two hearts, wounded for me and burning with love for me give me the courage to carry on.
In the middle of writing this a friend sent me a link to a novena to Our Lady of Sorrows that starts today. Join me in praying this novena that our wounded hearts will be healed and we will draw closer to the Divine Physician.