Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Isaiah 38:16
There is something so beautiful about Jesus’ resurrected scars. When we look at the Easter images, we see a glorified Christ who kept the holes through his hands and feet. We hear Gospel accounts of Jesus appearing with the hole in his side. Why? Why would Jesus keep these visible reminders of such a tragic suffering and painful death on his cross?
Because he knows. Jesus knew that perhaps one of the deepest human connections we can share is the connection through suffering. It is a guarantee that we, as human beings, will suffer in our lifetime. Jesus chose to share in that suffering with us.
Another guarantee in this lifetime is that we cannot live it alone. We were not created as solitary beings. We were made for human connection with one another.
St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “Interdependence must be transformed into solidarity, based upon the principle that the goods of creation are meant for all. That which human industry produces through the processing of raw materials, with the contribution of work, must serve equally for the good of all.”
As a principle, solidarity declares that we are all intertwined. What we do affects one another. We cannot live in a bubble. We do not suffer in a bubble, and we must heal connected to others.
My mother had foot surgery a few summers ago. I was not present for her surgery day nor her immediate recovery, but I made it a few days later. My mom, who is used to playing hostess on her feet all day, was forced to take it easy and to live differently. She had to learn to ask for and accept help. Her foot was swollen, bruised and tender. She gingerly had to change bandages, walk with crutches and take it slowly. We all had to adjust our expectations and have patience. She was forced to stop and heal, and she found grace in that healing. That summer was different.
As the summer wore on, my mom’s foot slowly healed, and each day she was able to regain strength and a bit more normalcy. By the end of the summer, she gingerly put her healing toes in the Atlantic salt water with a grateful sigh of relief. It was a beautiful moment worth the hard work! Today, her foot is straight and stronger than before, though it still bears the small surgical scars and has developed calluses in new places.
Maybe we don’t understand the patience of healing from surgery or healing from bodily trauma, but we all understand and can feel the pain of grief and heartache. Even these unseen bruises and tears leave internal scars. These, too, require patience and grace. We need time to heal from the death of a loved one, time to regain grounding when we discover a betrayal and time when we return from war. We all understand.
“We cannot find grounding in our shared realities of this past year. So instead we stay trapped in the news and social media, hiding behind our computer screens. We cannot accept and see that we are all suffering.”
There is beauty in group therapy. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Griefshare, and Cancer Support thrive because there is a common experience in recovery. The people who are hurting unite over their common stories and understanding of the deep trauma. Members are encouraged by one another to stay focused on their recoveries and healing. While the circumstances are different, the deep hurt is the same. Recovery is a long, ugly, painful process.
Our world is like my mother healing from her surgery. It has been badly bruised and broken. Our world has been traumatized by a pandemic. COVID-19 paralyzed the world in 2020, and everyone worldwide experienced some degree of pain. The world has lost over 3 million people to COVID, and has seen over 141 million cases total. Families have suffered isolation, hunger, unemployment, loneliness, isolation and abuse. You name it, and the list goes on. We have all suffered. But when we suffer together, we heal together. When we have grace and talk about our experiences, we naturally strengthen each other.
In our own United States of America, we appear anything but united. We have suffered trauma from political and racial unrest. Where we could be fostering connection, we are casting blame. Where we should be engaging each other with empathy, we are defensively hiding. We cannot find grounding in our shared realities of this past year. So instead we stay trapped in the news and social media, hiding behind our computer screens. We cannot accept and see that we are all suffering.
Where are the common human connections? Where is the understanding of one another’s scars? Where is the grace to remember that everyone heals at their own pace?
Jesus kept his scars as evidence of change. The wounds remain as a sign that recovery and healing are possible, but that we should not come out of our hurt by going back to the way things were.
As our nation begins to reopen in different ways and speeds, it remains even more vital that we don’t lose sight of those scars. Visible or invisible, we all have them. We have all been impacted by this past year and these past traumas. Let us not return to normal without recognizing we are changed. Let our scars shine as we make our way to the ocean and dip our ailing toes in the salt water of the Atlantic. Let this year and recovery not be in vain. Let us remain connected as we encourage one another in the recovery of our world.
After living on my street for six years, I recently had my first full conversations with the couple next door. Since March 13, 2020, people have been out of their homes. More people are walking, and stopping to chat with neighbors. With the loss of work and school, we find time we didn’t realize that we had. As we have been taken away from our computer screens, and our self-pity, we have gone outside to meet one another. In the process, we have realized that we are not alone.
Emily Clary has worked in Catholic education since 2005. She has worked in parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Providence and the Diocese of Charlotte. She has taught middle school Religion and worked in Catholic School Campus Ministry in Woonsocket, RI and in Raleigh NC.
James G Hanink
Thanks for this beautiful reflection!
This is very much on the mark. Thank you for presenting these thoughts so beautifully.