For a long time, I shunned the image of Jesus affixed on the cross. The Roman Catholic Church reveres that image and it struck me as idolatrous.
But recently, I read Pope Francis' reflections on following Jesus – “Open Mind, Faithful Heart". I have began to realise that rather than an idolatrous object, the image is a projection of myself on the cross. Certainly the cross was a terrible fate for anyone. I wouldn't wish it for the Lord, nor for anyone else. Yet that fate is one we all believe we deserve!
Today, we know the church is very human and fragile. We sinned and we have been sinned against. We can be hurt. Whether we are prepared or not, the church of Jesus is on a mission where "we can be hurt"! This is the reality of the breaking of bread. What we do sacramentally is lived and encountered historically as a people of God. God created us in bodily form. We can be hurt, broken and bleed.
Our Lord too, was deeply hurt - he was rejected, betrayed, denied and abandoned! He was not spared. His family did not support him in his proclamation of the Kingdom. He had many followers, and many were touched, healed and transformed by his ministry. The evidence of the power of God was undeniable. Yet only a select few followed him to the end...only to turn against him in the final hour. He was deeply hurt. He was human and he was like us – knitted in flesh and blood.
Indeed, we proclaim Him the Risen Lord! He suffered a crucified death but on the third day He arose! It was a glorious turnaround. Yet His passion through the cross hurts, and hurts deeply. This was truly devastating because He was innocent. True, God accepted the outpouring of his misery and pain as the pure and perfect offering for our sins and for our sake! Because He forgave, God also forgives us today. Most crucially, we cannot omit the fact that he suffered terribly.
So…today as followers of Jesus, will we be spared from hurt and pain?
Our bodies are flesh and our faith in Jesus does not void hurt and pain - it does not make us superhuman. God has no use for heroes or our fantasy for super heroes. Even super-humans on the screen have their neuroses. God loves us - that is the plain truth. Often He does use the "zeroes"...people the world does not really regard highly! In mission, we are often regarded like "rubbish" - expendables! To be sure, that can really hurt...deeply!
To be betrayed is to cut deep in the heart. To be denied is a real smack in the face! And to be abandoned, left without support at all, is to be in a terribly hollow spot.
If we are in mission with Jesus, we must be really honest. We can and will be hurt. The pain inflicted will be by those closest to us. If they were our enemies, we could have accepted it. But whenever it happens, the hurt inflicted is again and again from someone from whom we expected more, from someone close to home, close to heart.
The churches of the New Testament are all very human. None is perfect. Apostle Paul struggled till the very end with the churches. The Church of Corinth hurt him most. It was a church he planted and pastored!
Yet it was to this church he wrote again and again. In the record of the second epistle to the Corinthians, he praised God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles.
We receive comfort simply through the same channel of being vulnerable and susceptible to hurt, the heart. By the same token of feeling hurt, we too can also experience His comfort in all of our troubles. And in turn comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received...(read 2 Cor 1.3-4)
We can be hurt...so we can also be holy, the means with which we extend the sacrament of the love and mercy of Christ, our crucified Lord. For we can only achieve holiness through the Lord's disabling us from our corruption and evil in the flesh. We no longer return an eye for an eye and lose our appetite for that pound of flesh!