Wounds of Love

A Homily for Good Friday

”Nay!” answered the child; “but these are the wounds of Love.”

–Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant

When I was in the seventh grade, my father noticed the peach fuzz sprouting on my upper lip and called me into the bathroom.  After handing me a razor, he proceeded to help me, his legally blind son, give myself my very first shave.  Fifteen years later, as Dad lay dying of cancer, he asked me to shave him.  How ironic! I thought.  Dad helped me with my first shave, and now I’m helping him with his last.  I’ll give him the best shave I can, I resolved as I wielded the electric shaver.

My father died the following morning.  When my sisters were lovingly washing his body, they noticed the many tiny cuts in the skin beneath the chin.  I gasped.  I felt utterly ashamed and mortified.   I did that! I thought in self-reprimand.  I had wounded my dying father, and yet Dad hadn’t complained.  He had borne everything out of love for me!  He knew, I suppose, that one word of rebuke would have undone me.  Even to this day, whenever I remember those many miniscule cuts, I am overwhelmed with a sense of my father’s love for me. 

That is one lesson the Church is trying to teach us about the Passion and death of Jesus.  Our sins were the nails that transfixed Our Lord to the Cross, and we might easily gasp, “I did that!”  Yet Christ bore everything out of love!  Every time we see a crucifix, every time we pray the Stations of the Cross, every time we contemplate Our Lord’s Passion, we need not be ashamed.  Instead we would do well to remember just how much Jesus loves us.

There is, I think, one other important lesson for us to grasp.  In a world which encourages us to wrap ourselves tightly in the mantle of victimhood, we need to take to heart our own share in Christ’s sufferings.  I can think of no more powerful antidote to the fever of entitled victimhood than the knowledge that I, too, am capable of causing another’s pain.  Before the Cross of Jesus, my angry cry of victimhood dies on my lips as a feeble whimper and is transformed into a hymn of amazed, awe-filled gratitude.