Wounds of Joy
by Noel E. Bordador
I used to be a member of the Commission of Ministry of the Diocese of New York and one of my responsibilities was to screen applicants for the ordained ministry, mainly for the priesthood. People who apply have impressive credentials. But among other things, what I looked for in a candidate was whether or not he or she had the capability to share in the suffering of another person who is hurting- hurting because of some expected or unexpected life crisis. I wanted to know that the candidate had the willingness and capability to bear the cross of another human being, that he or she must be willing to have his or heart broken by the pain of another human person. That he or she is not going to run away from or avoid pain and suffering.
Once at a Bible study, I remarked that the Christian religion is not about looking for happiness, and by happiness, I mean the avoidance of pain and suffering at all cost. I said that because our Lord does command his disciples to imitate him in bearing the cross of God’s suffering people, to be with them in times of need, to bear God’s compassion and charity to them. As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to have ourselves touched by others and in the process, allow our hearts to be broken by people’s heartbrokenness. The world is transformed for good and redeemed by offering ourselves in love and mercy to our suffering brothers and sisters because that is how Christ transformed and saved the world- by offering himself unselfishly for the sake of the broken, sinful and suffering world. We proclaim that by Christ’s bearing of the cross of the world, joy entered the world. And we proclaim that the joy of Christ continues to enter the world by through us by our sharing in the cross of others. And ironically speaking, it is the pouring out of oneself in service that brings joy to oneself, that life of service fulfills the very purpose of life given to a person in his/her birth and baptism.
In many images of St. Francis of Assisi we find that he has pierced hands bearing the wounds of the cross, just as Jesus. His hands are also pierced because in his life, he bore the wounds of Christ in his body. The image of Francis here is to remind us that like him we participate in the suffering of Christ by being in solidarity with the wounded world and such solidarity brings joy.
I can only liken what Christian joy is to a mother who is about to give birth.
In the process of birth giving, the mother experiences both the pains of labor and also joy on bringing forth new life. In giving life, joy is mixed in suffering. Interestingly, medieval saints often referred to Jesus in the image of a pregnant mother who gives birth to new life in us through the suffering of his cross.
As we go through life, we want to be asking ourselves, in what way can we bring
joy to others who are suffering? In what way can we, in our own humble way, bring gladness to those who sorely yearn for a word of hope and encouragement. You would be surprised even how little good things count to bring joy to others.
©2020 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Episcopal priest in the Philippines. He runs Nazareth House, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality for persons with HIV/AIDS in Manila.
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