Sr. Mary Leonora is one of those persons who lives her life as an artist. Great artists don’t create their own concept of what they wish to draw, but allow the subject of their painting to emerge from the colors they add, both dark and light, and lines both clear and smudged. I’ve known Sr Mary Leonora for many years now, and like an artist, she knows it is not about what she puts on the canvas, but what emerges under the guiding Hand of the Eternal Artist that creates of her life the beauty and hope the world so longs for. Having lived through great suffering in her life, there are a lot of dark colors the divine Hand has painted through the years, but she has touched up the sadder moments with colors that create a pathway of healing for the rest of us.
She has written:
Our culture is drawing more and more away from God while the need for healing is increasing. Where will we find healing, if not in the triune God who created and redeemed us? Yes, we can find healing for our bodies in doctors and the medical sciences. We can find at least some healing for our psyches and troubled minds from professionals. But where do we find healing and wholeness for our spirits, our souls, our hearts, when these have been abused and wounded? Who will heal our heart, if not he who created it? And who can heal the wounds of our spirit, if not he who let himself be wounded for our salvation?
Even though everyone’s story of woundedness and healing is unique and personal, I have noticed there are some common denominators in this journey, and I think these are what make up what I would like to call a spirituality of healing: a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.
I’m so happy to welcome Sr Mary Leonora to Touching the Sunrise and know that you will find the reflections she shares in these next couple of months both helpful and healing.
The Spirituality of Healing:
In His Wounds, We Are Healed
by Sr. Mary Leonora, FSP
I’m back to continue our reflection on the spirituality of healing. You probably remember that in my last article I defined the spirituality of healing as “a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.” I would like to begin to unpack what I mean by that, beginning with focusing on Jesus. Holy Week seems the perfect time for it.
Why? First, because in this week we fix our attention on Jesus, on His sufferings, death and resurrection. Second, because I have lived first hand the amazing healing power of his wounds. St. Peter, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says that by Jesus’ wounds we are healed (cf. 1 Pt 2:24; Is 53:5).
Someone might contest that both Isaiah and Peter are speaking of spiritual wounds caused by sin. But when we speak of wounds caused by abuse, are we not speaking of woundedness caused by sin? Even sickness can be traced back to original sin and the loss of those special gifts possessed by our very first parents.
What does Isaiah say when speaking of the suffering servant? “He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Is 53:5). Peter rephrases Isaiah’s thought, making explicit reference to the crucifixion of Jesus: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross…; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24).
As I continue these articles, I plan to tell you some of my story and my journey to healing, since the Lord is letting me understand that he wants me to share my experience to encourage others in their own journey of healing. Early on in childhood I discovered that gazing on the crucifix and praying before it is a great source of strength and spiritual healing.
Ever since I can remember, suffering has been a part of my life – physical, emotional, spiritual—trying to find a mother’s love, but never succeeding; seeking to make sense of explosive anger and blows that seemed to come unprovoked; and, the most difficult of all, dealing with rejection. By the time I was eight I was convinced that there was something terribly wrong with me and at the age of ten I decided that the only thing for me to do was to leave home. So, I got on my bike and left.
After pedaling for a couple of hours I was tired and stopped in front of a small church. The door was open, so I went inside. There, in the entranceway, was a more-than-life-size crucifix. Jesus’ arms were spread out, nailed to the cross and his head was bent as if he were looking at me. There was a terrible gash in his side and blood was coming out of his wounds. The expression on his face was so kind! His image burned itself into my memory and tears still come to my eyes when I remember that cross. I stood there, mesmerized, and just kept gazing on that face and bruised body. I felt his pain and wanted to comfort him; I was so taken with Jesus that I forgot my own pain.
Then suddenly, without even realizing I was speaking aloud, my hushed voice filled that small space, “You understand me,” I said. I don’t know what happened in that moment, except that I experienced a kind of all-encompassing embrace that left me knowing I was understood, accepted, loved. I didn’t want to leave that place. I just kept looking and loving—a response to the love that was pouring out upon me from that crucifix. Then, quietly, without any kind of deliberation, as if I were being gently guided, I left the church, climbed back on my bike and pedaled home.
I was not healed in that moment (I was still too young to even know how broken and wounded I was), but this was a tremendous turning point in my life. I now had a friend, a grownup friend, someone I could go to, someone who had suffered and someone who accepted and loved me! Later in life, I would discover that he had the power to heal me. But a relationship had begun, a relationship that would be crucial for my healing. In the years to come that relationship would grow and blossom into something alive and intimate, yielding fruits of love, forgiveness, happiness and healing that I could not even have dreamed were possible.
Relationship with Jesus is the first common denominator of spiritual healing.
Sr. Mary Leonora