I went to confession in recent time and received a wonderful advice from the confessor. He told me that when we truly want to be disciples of Christ, our hearts will be pierced like His heart. “Father Khoi,” he said, “to get hurt by others is part of being who we are — human. However, how we embrace the hurts, especially the pains and sufferings that come with and from them, make us Christians.”
What he told me in a short sentence packs an immense revelation of truth. Almost every day, I deal with people who are hurt by others or have a problem with forgiveness. They come broken and are very tempted to seek vengeance or find a self-medicative solution in order to numb the pains. Even with our best intentions, it is very easy to hurt other people who are around us. Due to personality differences and other human factors, it is very easy for us to end up hurting each other by simply doing what we think is best. It is hard to accept that life is imperfect and not always rosy like we would wish it to be! Nevertheless, even in our own struggles, life is always worth living because of the wonderful opportunities that are present in it. While it is easy to shut off, eradicate, or take vengeance on those whom we do not like, we are called to love them in the hurt.
The Lord Jesus could have saved us in different ways but He freely chose to suffer for us out of love. He chose something unimaginable if we are to be in His place. He underwent the pains of betrayal, rejection, abandonment, and crucifixion for us. He chose to give us the personal, intimate, and everlasting gift of love by the giving of Himself for us. The Cross is then an undeniable historical and salvific expression of divine love for humanity. The Lord took something that was unimaginable for many, especially when the infinite and all-powerful Creator God of the universe chose to die for us. He had chosen to bear the pains and to be pierced by us for our salvation.
Therefore, it is important to know that we get a chance to participate in Jesus Christ’s pierced love for humanity when we embrace our hurts, pains, and sufferings with love. I am not asking you to go out and search for those painful moments. Unfortunately, they are often unavoidable for we are weak and our humanity tends to hurt one another a lot of times. Instead of reacting negatively or vengefully to what is given to us, we can choose to respond with love and forgiveness like Him. Instead of doubting others and isolating ourselves because we are scared of getting hurt, we can choose to love and care for those who are around us like the Lord Jesus with the people who were around Him. Instead of manipulating other people to get what we want, we can choose to be genuine and give the gift of ourselves totally and completely to all. We can choose to retribute or we can choose to rise above the self-centered reactions that naturally come when things do not go our way. We can choose to react to what is given to us with the same (or greater) amount of force or vengeance, or we can choose to respectfully pray about how to respond with the same attitude and mind of the Lord Jesus.
We hurt each other when we stop recognizing the presence of God in one another. Violence, war, hatred, political correctness, and the likes often stemmed from people who are putting themselves above others to get what they want at all costs. When we put ourselves as the criterion and standard of judgment, as if everything has to go our way, we, in turn, isolate ourselves from others and desire to manipulate others to get what we want. We stop to love one another when we ignore, deny, or choose not to recognize the divine presence, understand the person, respect him or her, and forgive them as God has forgiven us.
The picture I have chosen for this reflection is a monstrance at Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church in the Chicago area. I took this picture when I visited the church and area for the first time. The message behind the design of the monstrance personally spoke to me. The Blessed Mother, who is the New Ark of the Covenant, bears Christ intimately and personally in her very being, as well as radiating her Son to others. The Lord spoke to me so lovingly when I sat down for prayer, and I still remember it today. We are called to be like our Mother who bears the presence of Christ and radiates His love in and through our very being. Our words and actions, which are the reflection of who we are deep from within, need to reflect and give Jesus to others. It begins with prayer as we contemplate on Christ’s forgiving and life-giving love for us as we learn to forgive and give life to people and relationships that are in our lives. Even though we might be dealt a bad hand and get hurt by those who are around us, we continue to give life by praying for them just as the Lord has prayed for us. Just like when the Lord foretold Saint Peter’s denial, He also prayed for him in these words: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
We are invited to practice mercy and to genuinely share God’s love to others when we experience how immense is His mercy for us and how much He has forgiven us. When we understand how merciful and loving our Lord truly is, forgiving us of our sins at times when we betrayed His love, we are called to be like St. Peter to strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters. Just as He has been patient with us, it is important that we do not rashly turn others away by our own self-centered expectations and demands but learn to accompany and love the person in his or her own struggles. We are called to journey with them, especially with patience, wisdom, and forgiveness, to help them grow in what God wants them to be — just like He has worked in our own lives. To accompany a person who is struggling and trying to better themselves is often times hard as it requires a lot of patience. It is painful, too, for there will be resistance and failure to trust, believe, and recognize God at work — perhaps from both sides, us and them. To truly bears and radiates Christ is hard for we will be challenged to love in new ways beyond our own comfort zone, personal wantings, and self-centered desires. Perhaps to be like Christ is to be called and given the opportunity to be pierced by the love of our neighbors just as His heart has been pierced for the love of us.
Maybe the saints are right! There is no denial or running away from the Cross if we truly desire to love Christ and be His disciples. Perhaps to bear the Cross and be pierced by love are the undeniable part of what it truly means to love like Christ. In our own lives, we will perhaps have to go through numerous occasions of betrayal, rejection, abandonment, and suffering caused by the things of this world and the people around us. Instead of seeking vengeance, retribution, manipulation, or isolation, we can choose to love and be loved by the pierced heart of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us try our best in making the commitment: “Lord Jesus, just as you had embraced the Cross for the love of me, please help me to accept my own crosses for the love of You.”