It has been said that humanity has had to endure three great wounds to our sense of self in the modern age.
The first came with the 15th century astronomer Copernicus: He discovered that the sun, not the earth, was the centre of our great solar system. Our world is a tiny speck in the great expanse of space, revolving around a great, life-giving star we call the Sun.
Next, in the 19th century came the theories of evolution and species development. Before Charles Darwin it was assumed that the human person was unique with respect to the rest of creation; we belonged in a category of all our own. For the first time it was asserted that we, in fact, shared our origins with other animals. That we not so much the top of the tree of life, but a branch on it. We were one small part of an immense cosmic family of relationships.
This shouldn’t shock someone with a Franciscan heart, for St. Francis was speaking about our ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ creatures seven centuries before the theory of evolution took the world of science by storm!
The final ‘wound’ to humanity’s sense of self came with Sigmund Freud and the psychological revolution. After Freud we came to doubt whether we were truly captains of our own ship; whether our ‘selves’ were really autonomous and integrated or, rather, fragmented and conflicted.
The ‘three wounds’ have left modern humanity bereft and anxious: In previous centuries it was simply understood that the earth was the centre of the universe, human beings were the centre and peak of nature, and that each person was the centre, or the ‘captain’ of his or her own ship.
These ‘wounds’ have made a great impression on our modern story. They are frequently spoken of in relation to the decline of faith and religion in the West, especially. But in some ways they have only wounded our pride, our grandiose sense of who we are. All so far removed from the doctrine of the Incarnation!
In fact, nothing we have learned about ourselves or the cosmos changes the fundamental truth that we exist simply because we are loved. The doctrine of creation means, at bottom, that we are loved without condition by God. God has revealed Himself through history, correcting our misunderstandings, patiently training us into clearer thoughts and ideas about who God is and who we are in relation to God.
We should not be afraid; our place in the universe is assured, for we are loved, without condition. In the same way all of creation is loved and embraced by God. The ultimate sign of God’s love is Jesus Christ and we come to see that the healing for all our wounds are his glorious wounds. The wounded hands, and feet, and side of Jesus, now gloriously transformed in the Resurrection, are the source of our healing.
We Christians are ‘wounded healers’. We find in the Lord a source of healing which gives us meaning and strength and peace as we go through life: ‘He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God’ (2 Cor 1: 4).
Going through life, we can inflict wounds; we can hide from wounds, or we can be healed by Christ’s wounds and become wounded healers in the process. St. Francis of Assis chose the last of these three options and as an early biography has St. Francis say, our mission is ‘to heal the wounded, to bind up the broken, and to recall the erring’. (The Legend of the Three Companions).
Liam Kelly OFM
If you are interested in the Franciscan way of life why not make contact with me, Fruar Liam, to find out more:
Phone: 087 396 0262
Postal address: Franciscan Friary, St Francis Street, Galway.