Woundedness is a fundamental phenomenon of existence on planet earth. We meet it in every aspect of existence whether it be in the bumps, scratches and falls of early childhood, the experience of severe pain, the loss and loneliness of death, disappointments, the experience and havoc of war, starvation, natural disasters, family tragedies , abuse and neglect.
The counterpart to woundedness is healing. Pain, anguish and suffering draw forth compassion, empathy, sympathy, tenderness, the desire to help, the desire to share our resources, skills and talents for the good of the whole. We learn these altruistic instincts and positive attitudes and responses early if we have been nurtured in love, blessed with a loving family, carers and friends. Sadly this blessedness is not a universal experience.
Yet it would be a huge mistake to limit our consideration of the phenomenon of woundedness and healing to the human experience alone. This would be to disconnect humankind from the rest of creation. Through all levels of life every creature including humans feed upon other creatures for survival and death is a common factor for all. Pain and suffering seem intrinsic to life.
In recent times our physicists, scientists and cosmologist, using more and more advanced technologies are revealing the deep interconnectedness of every aspect of our planet.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin a Jesuit palaeontologist and philosopher writing in the 1950s described the earth as “a living being, a colossal, biological super-system.”
Humankind is one of the last species to evolve. With the human, the planet becomes self aware - a thinking, reflective, numinous, spiritual, discerning being. It is a being with highly developed consciousness, having the power to choose and to make decisions. We humans are the mind of the earth; through human-kind the planet is aware of itself reflects on itself and makes decisions that affect the whole organism. The earth relies on us for wholesome ongoing development.
In Genesis 1 the bible records “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and continues to describe the six days of Creation, concluding with the statement Gen1:31 “God saw everything that he had made and indeed it was very good”
Genesis tells us what God did –the creative act he set in motion, but he leaves us, through our scientists, cosmologists, philosophers , theologians, mystics and thinkers to discover His process, the how, to gradually unravel, the processes of an evolving, unfolding universe
The great mystery, the huge question we are considering today is: if everything God made is good why the pain why the suffering. It seems patently obvious that we are part of a wounded system in desperate need of healing. But is this wholly true I wonder.
Or is it rather, that our evolutionary journey is as yet incomplete? Is it incomplete because it requires the full cooperation of the human species for this phase of evolution? Is it yet incomplete because it requires the ingredient of self-giving love?
I believe that human kind is called to altruistic love, that this is the purpose of our lives, the path to true happiness, fulfilment and ultimate union with God, the creator of all that exists. Selfishness wounds us and the planet of which we are an intrinsic part.
When we were born into this world, like all mammals, we were totally self absorbed, totally needy, totally dependent on those around us to satisfy our needs. As we grew and our minds developed we became aware of others as separate from us - loving us, caring for us, maybe - but separate from us. Gradually we learned others had needs of their own and rights of their own. Slowly and not without struggle and pain, we learned - to a degree - to acknowledge and respect the needs and rights of others.
This maturing process, this learning and the response it requires from us is the source of our, and the whole of humanities’ life–long struggle with selfishness and is at the heart of what we call virtue and sin. We know that everything God made is good. As human persons we continue to grow in conscious awareness, discovering the gifts of reflection, discernment and the power to choose. At some stage in our early life we came to a moment when with full knowledge and awareness we deliberately chose to do what we knew to be wrong, to be unloving. We committed our personal original sin. From that point on we face the constant challenge to act lovingly rather than selfishly. Free will is a beautiful and terrifying gift which defines the human person. This moment is beautifully and symbolically described for us in the parable of Adam and Eve Genesis 2 and 3
As the thinking, self aware, reflective, decision making species, it would appear that God has entrusted to us responsibility for the ongoing evolution of the earth, to make decisions in harmony with the Creator’s design for the wholesome ongoing evolution of the planet. An awesome responsibility and sadly we do not seem to be doing very well.
Our world is deeply wounded at every level; the evolutionary process would appear to be thwarted, derailed by greed and selfishness, the refusal to love. We are constantly bombarded with noise and flashing lights extolling our need for more and more stuff, feeding our selfishness and desire for the new and better, the latest models, the up to date fashions.
Meanwhile the poor get poorer, the earth gets ravished; many species lose their breeding grounds and become extinct, while the few get richer and richer.
Are we to despair at human-kind’s refusal to love, to cooperate in the evolutionary process?.
I do not believe so. The world has been 13.7 billion years unfolding; that is a long, long, long time. The human has been around only for 5-6 million years. That, in context, is a very, very short time.
I believe that the human evolutionary journey from self-absorption into altruism, into true love and respect for others and all that God has made is a journey in process. On a global level, it is a journey as yet incomplete. For most individuals I believe it is a journey, a process that continues beyond death. Notwithstanding this, there are many examples of truly holy and heroic lives which lead me to believe that many individuals do complete the process in their human life span.
But our ultimate reason for faith and hope is Jesus who calls us to repentance, to atonement - to be one with him. On behalf of all humanity he offered to the Father perfect love. He lived a life of total love. He taught, modelled, explained and telescoped this evolutionary journey for us through his life, death and resurrection. Through his life and sufferings we learn the cost of total love, total integrity. Through his resurrection he confirmed for us life beyond death into union with God. He is The Christ, the anointed one, the wounded healer; he tells us The Father and I are one. Jn10:30
As God he is the power and energy that sustains all creation. In his humanity he is our redeemer, teacher, model, example and inspiration – he has walked among us teaching and healing and continually inviting us to repentance and union with him in the life of the Trinity - witness his prayer at the last meal before his death
John 17: I pray 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Can we believe that the Father will not answer that prayer?
The words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin the Jesuit scientist and theologian gives me hope that many are responding to Christ’s call and that despite regression attitudes are changing.
"Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire."
I believe there is kindling happening, many small fires gathering momentum, in all parts of the world; people of all faiths and none are working on the ground with thestarving, the displaced, the dispossessed, the homeless and the outcast; many putting their lives at risk for others. There is kindling among scientists, spiritual writers, philosophers, scholars musicians and songwriters, in Ecology and Spirituality Centres, transition towns and among the many who campaign about deforestation, climate change and the many crucial issues that affect the well being of the planet and its inhabitants.
I believe that there is a lot of love, a lot of good things happening today. Many movements, many groups of people are working to find a more creative, sustainable way of living. Many marvellous people all over the planet are enabling and empowering others to heal and be healed. Yes, I believe the fire is spreading. As Christ knew it would. Are we now at the tipping point, poised to fulfil the wish of Jesus?
"I have come to bring fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12: 49
Camilla Hunt RSM