Putting a Name to the Pain

Putting a Name to the Pain

BY BR. MATT WOOTERS, S.J. | February 12, 2024
Sunday’s Readings

Today’s readings speak of the vulnerability of being seen. Sinfulness (and skin infections) may make us want to cover ourselves and pull away from our community. To say nothing of being shunned. Early on in my Jesuit life I was a social work case-manager for people who had HIV and were homeless. Their lives were hard for so many reasons: social stigma, shame, addiction and poverty included. Not unlike the lepers in today’s readings, they were cut off from family, friends and much of their community. What surprised me is that a number of my clients shared the relief they felt at their diagnosis because it would help explain the pain they were feeling. It put words to the problem. Have you had a friend or family member express relief at a diagnosis? Treatment can only begin once a problem is accurately named.

Putting a Name to the Pain

One of the most moving parts of the Spiritual Exercises – the 30 day silent retreat every Jesuit and many others complete – is the invitation to do a General Examination of Conscience. This is not your average grocery list of sins that come from childlike catechesis. “I did this 4 times, and that 6 times,” etc. St. Ignatius, in his wisdom, knows that frequently our hurt and brokenness are symptoms of a deeper rooted core sin. That deep sin – be it pride or ingratitude or whatever it may be – is going to continue to cut us off from our friends, family and God in a variety of symptoms unless we invite God into that deep place of hurt and shame. That’s where the healing comes. Are we, like the leper in today’s readings, ready to ask Jesus to come to that place in each of us?

Lord, you meet us where we are, not where we wish we were. 

Give us the courage to put language around where we need healing 

So we might go forth as agents of mercy and healing in turn.

4 replies
  1. sonja
    sonja says:

    For me a diagnosis implies there is something wrong. Whereas when we address the root cause, for example, anger and grief and wrap it in love and hand it over to Mary, the problem is gone. All of life is a learning experience. Every lesson teaches as humility and the wisdom to embrace the scars and hurts in life with compassion to better help others in similar situations, through understanding and inspiration. God sees us as perfect, who are we to say we are not.

  2. Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    I was always glad as an Irish person with skin cancer that my cancer was found on my back or arms and could be covered up until the day it was on my neck and face. I suurendered the disease to my God and his Mother Mary and that surrender gave me peace and calm. There were so many people who assisted me in this disease as my son went with me to a banquet and was very comfortable about the decision. The medical profession tried to do their best to make the scar invisible which was so thoughtful of them and gave me the best ways to minimize what was happening to my body. The hours in the sun as a teenager didn’t help my sensitive Irish skin but the quality of care and concern I reeived were spiritual lessons in their own way. The lepers in the Gospel ha the trauma of being noticed and when they were made clean there was a whole new beginning to their lives. With God’s assistance and the assistance of others I too felt the consolation of acceptance..


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