By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE WOUNDED HEART
Bring hither thy hand and put it into My side.
ONE kind of a heart-wound is inflicted by the loss of those we love. The separation may be brought about by estrangement or by death, and who shall say which wound is deeper or more painful? Who sorrowed more, the widow of Nairn or the father of the prodigal? Bride, in all your blossoms and beauty, which will you have, the dark weeds of death or the dismal parting of the divorce court? God forbid you should have either, or that the heart which now beats happily beneath the blossoms should ever bleed. Now, Christ's Heart was wounded that ours may be healed. He says to every heart: "Peace be to thee," and invites every sorrowing soul, as He did St. Thomas, to find its solace in His open side. "Bring hither thy hand and put it into My side."
Death indeed has its sorrows and sharp is the edge of its reaping-hook. In many a home the voice once heard is heard no more; its echoes have died away. The eyes that glistened there with the regret of a daily departure, the smile that flashed with unfailing brightness a daily welcome, all have disappeared in gloom, and the household look and listen in vain. A familiar shadow will never more darken the door; a well-known step sounds no more on the stairway, and the chair in the family circle, vacant forever, is a sad companion in the gathering twilight. Yet even that wound will be closed by the healing touch of time and by the blessed forgetfulness that comes with new duties and new affections. The tomb is final, and, bad as it is, we know the worst. But the wound of separation stays open longer. Estrangement is a daily death, and is ever presenting to the apprehension new fears, more dreaded prospects. The heart made vacant by a death may be filled again with new growth, but the desert sands of living separation put forth no blooms to refresh the aching gaze. The widow's son is at rest in the graveyard, where she may go and pray, but the prodigal's father is ever on the torturing rack with rumors of riotous living and famine and disgrace and filth and starvation, and is oppressed by the darkening despair that the prodigal, as often happens, will never come home.
It may be hard, or even impossible, to determine which of these two wounds of loss— death or estrangement—is the more painful, but there can be no doubt that another kind of heart-wound, the wound of pride, gives the keenest of all tortures. The heart wounded by pride often develops a running sore. It does not, and will tell you it can not, forget as those bereaved by death can do. Pride is, in reality, the cause of the worst anguish in estrangement, because what chafes in such separations is the thought that other persons have been preferred to us. How long is the life of a compliment? No one has yet determined the age to which it will attain. For years and years a compliment is music and fragrance to the memory. But if a compliment is long-lived, a humiliation is immortal.
The wounds of pride fester because a poison has tainted the weapon that made them. If a humble heart is wounded, it is not surprised. It does not identify itself with the universe, does not consider itself the crowned king of creation. But every affront or quarrel or humiliation for the proud heart is an offence against kingly majesty. The wound may be concealed; it refuses to be cured. To be cured, pride must go out of itself, and it would not be pride if it did that. Humility feels the hurt, but it does not feel hurt. Pride transfers the wound to personality; it recognizes a defeat; it smarts from another's superiority. In a football game the ball is only a distraction, while twenty two souls and bodies grapple for mastery; the real issue of endurance and tactics could be determined just as well with a pin-cushion or a rope's end. In a wounded heart, in like manner, the real issue is not the word said or the deed done, but the fact that one king is rolling in the dust and feels the heel of another upon his neck. That feeling is the poison which festers; that is the heart-wound which does not heal.
"Bring hither thy heart and put it into My side." So says the Heart of Christ risen from the dead. Christ went about consoling His stricken ones during the days that followed His Resurrection. Mark His wonderful condescension, King Pride, who art enthroned in the wounded heart; mark how He submits to the conditions imposed by Thomas, how He humbly bows to his follower's haughty, "I will not!" It is the evidence and practice of
God to draw good from evil. Never was there a more striking instance than here. Should we ever have known that the way into Christ's Heart was open except for Thomas's lack of faith? Perhaps not. At all events, there is no doubt about it now, that, when Christ glorified His body, He did not remove His wounds, but kept them to console us. The first stage in the consoling of wounded hearts by the Heart of Christ is the restoring of faith. "Bring hither thy hand and put it into My side; and be not faithless but believing." A wound is not a reason for loss of faith in man and God. The wound of Christ is a proof of His Divinity. Christ has not promised that our hearts will not be wounded, but He has proved that out* wounds will be our glory; He has proved that if we go down into the dark hollows on the sea of sorrow, we shall mount again to the heights of joy. The trough of the wave of Calvary rose to the white crest of Easter.
The Heart of Christ is the healing of wounded hearts because He has traveled all the ways of loss and separation. We can enter upon no path of sorrow where His cross has not cast its shadow, where His feet have not left footprints of blood. He entered, too, into the valley of death. His body was made, it could be said, for immediate immortality, unlike ours, which must pass through dust to immortality. So, besides the deaths which through life wounded His Heart, St. Joseph's and that of Lazarus and of many others, His own death, the separation of His soul from His body by death gave Him the sharpest of wounds, and it was especially hard for His Heart to die, because death was not Its due.
There was, then, no wound of death which His Heart did not feel, and there was, too, no wound of estrangement which He was not called upon to suffer. He felt the exile from friends in Egypt. If Mary and Joseph sought Him sorrowing, much more did He sorrow staying away from them. These were but shallow wounds if measured beside the gashes of His Passion, when His people abandoned Him and His Apostles, and when by His own wish His mother was forced to abandon Him, and when, finally, deepest of all wounds of estrangement, the cry was wrung from His lips, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
"So, you also who have a heart wounded by a humiliation, bring it hither and put it into My side," Christ says to us all. "I who am true King and God of all, have been humbled to the dust. The hand behind the spear-point was one to which I was reaching out My hand that I might grasp it in love and lift a soul to Heaven. Many would have festering heart-wounds if the one to whom they gave a cup of water would cast it in derision into their face. I gave of the brimming contents of My Heart, and mocking insulters have flung My useless, unavailing Blood back upon Me. More than that, wounded heart; the very blow which festers within you fell upon My Heart. This is no exaggeration, no figure of speech. I died for all sins and for the selfsame sin which wounded your heart, and because I know God better and understand sin more fully, and because, too, I love you better than you do yourself, the wound that was dealt you was dealt to Me and gave Me more intense pain than it did or could possibly give to you. Bring hither, then, your heart, whether wounded by loss or humiliation, and put it into My side, and you will find there a Heart more deeply wounded."