The Paradox of Pain

Note: Some of you have written that you appreciate all TCT’s daily columns, but especially the ones that provide spiritual advice – counsel on how to live. Elizabeth Mitchell offers some profound insights in that vein this morning. There are many mansions in the Faith and we try to cover as many as we can. Please, we need your personal support for our efforts to maintain this rich and varied reality that is the Catholic tradition – and that the world so desperately needs to know. – Robert Royal

“Lord Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” (Lk. 18:38). We can all cry out like the blind man at the Gate of Jericho, struggling perhaps to forgive a deep hurt, unable to let go of the pain, feeling blind and helpless.  We know that our efforts alone are futile to heal our innermost anguish, and with the blind man, we call out to our only Hope.

But as the blind man cries out, “the people who were going along with Jesus told the man to be quiet.” (Lk. 18:39)

Christ has better things to do, the voices tell us.  He has more important people to help, bigger problems to handle.  We should be able to solve this ourselves.  Just forgive and move on.  Why sit here languishing all these years?  Get over it, already.

But the blind man knows not to listen to these voices.

“He shouted even louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’” (Lk. 18:39)

He knows his healing is only possible through Christ’s Divine mercy.  He cries out in desperate hope with the last strength of his soul.

And then, the miracle begins.

“Jesus stopped and told some people to bring the blind man over to him.  When the blind man was getting near, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see!” he answered.  (Lk. 18:41)

Lord, I want to let go of this terrible pain.  I want to forgive.  I want to see the person who hurt me as You do, but blindness covers my heart and eyes.  I cannot see past my pain.  The hurt is too engulfing.

Jesus replies, “Look and you will see!  Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”  (Lk. 18:42)

This opening of our heart – this encounter with Christ, our healing at the gate of Jericho – takes place in the confessional.  When you cannot let go of a profound hurt, you must do the paradoxical thing.  You must admit the rejection that has so deeply hurt you, and bring it, in all its humiliation, to Jesus to heal.

The paradox of pain is that it cannot be healed by pushing it away, running from the hurt, or rationalizing the rejection.  We must go toward the hurt, go closer to it, acknowledge it, to be healed of the wound we carry inside.

If we have been rejected, and want to be healed, we start by admitting the rejection.  Holding it up to the light of day, shouting it out to Jesus.  And the best place to do this, to accept the pain and ask Jesus to help us, is in Adoration.  We bring it to him there and ask Him to give us His peace.

Take the rejection and the pain to Jesus and look at it with Him.  Let Him see it.  Let Him heal the wound it caused.  Then, and only then, can we forgive the hurt we feel.

*

If we try to skirt the issue and stay on the surface, our wound will not heal.  If we get used to our walking stick and our beggar’s cup, holding together our day-to-day routine, compensating for our woundedness, we will never clearly see again.  But if we admit our utter helplessness, and our inability to heal ourselves, Christ can act.

If we have a looming loan to be repaid, we can ignore the debt and just keep making the interest payments.  We keep pretending everything is fine, but the debt looms large while we rationalize our inaction.  To address the problem, we must confront the size of our hurt, the stubborn existence of our pain.  We can only fully forgive a hurt that we acknowledge fully.  We can only offer real forgiveness when we have admitted, to ourselves, the real rejection.

Christ does this on the Cross.  He does not avoid or rationalize the hurt He receives from us.  He allows Himself openly to be rejected, wounded without defense.  He accepts our hurt upon the Cross.  He does not dull the pain with myrrh.

“Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he would not take it.” (Mk. 15:23)

He allows Himself to fully feel the pain.  And from His full acceptance flows His full forgiveness.  He forgives the wounds so openly received.  He loves in return for the rejection heaped upon him.

His is the way of healing.

And so, at Christ’s invitation, we tell Him that we want to be healed.  We take our rejection to Him, and we let Our Lord see it.  We let ourselves see it without the blinders of rationalization.  In this act of acknowledging the hurt, we can truly forgive.  For the first time in years, the numbing, nagging sting subsides.  We stop pushing down the hurt, and we release our hearts to freely forgive.

And our hearts are changed.  Completely.

So often, we are the prisoner.  We are the blind man.  Christ does not reject us when we let Him see the hurt, when we offer Him our blindness.  He stands by us.  He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And no other healing is needed.  We have lost nothing, but gained all, in handing everything over to Him.

“At once the man could see, and he went with Jesus and started thanking God.  When the crowds saw what happened, they praised God.”  (Lk. 18:43)

At once.  The healing power of Christ instantly anoints our hearts.  Christ does not delay when we hand all it to Him.  His is the paradoxical response, the response of His Divine Mercy, in which the forgiveness we offer heals our own hearts.

We leave praising God.  The God Who receives our hurt, the God Who heals our wounded hearts, when we cry out to Him and beg to fully see through His eyes of Love.

*Image: The Crucifixion of Christ by the Master of St. Lambrecht (possibly Hans von Tübingen), c. 1435 [Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria]

You may also enjoy:

Robert Royal’s Because It’s Hard

Mary Eberstadt’s The Next American Awakening Starts Here

Elizabeth A. Mitchell

Dr. Elizabeth A. Mitchell, S.C.D., received her doctorate in Institutional Social Communications from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome where she worked as a translator for the Holy See Press Office and L’Osservatore Romano. She is the Dean of Students for Trinity Academy, a private K-12 Catholic independent school in Wisconsin, and serves as an Advisor for the St. Gianna and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life and is Theological Advisor for Nasarean.org, a mission advocating on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

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