“The Stigmata and a Healing Balm” By William Klein

Every so often I see religious symbols and allusions to religion that keep jumping out at me in daily life.  I read about angels, and I start seeing allusions everywhere to angels that remind me to not be afraid. The signs comfort me to believe there’s something looking out for me, guiding me, assisting me daily.

I read the passage where Jesus tells his disciples to be “fishers of men” and the fish symbols start popping up to remind me to be present to my work.  I take delight in helping others to discover the teachings of Jesus and the signs of fish remind me to think abundantly in bringing others to Christ.

Recently I came across a woman in Bolivia, Catlina “Catya” Rivas, who is bleeding the stigmata. Ironically, in my studies, I’ve been coming across other saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Padre Pio and this made me go deeper. The stigmata is a sign of Christ in the world.

The stigmata phenomenon happens when one literally bleeds the wounds of Christ. Mystics sometimes are “gifted” with the wounds as evidence of their holiness. Witnesses to the stigmata claim that blood suddenly becomes visible on the hands, feet and other parts of the body where Jesus suffered the same wounds.  Doctors can’t explain how this miracle takes place and scientists are equally baffled by it.

As I thought deeper about the issue I thought about being witness to the wounds of Christ in daily life. Although the wounds may not be visible, they are present in each and every one of us nonetheless and sometimes lay at the surface of our being.

Consider a man, who has lost his job and has no means to provide for his family, or a woman, who has been told she has cancer and a short time to live, or a child, who has suffered at the hands of a bully on the playground, or an elderly person, grappling with his own mortality.

Those are hard instances, but wounds may manifest in subtle expressions in our daily lives as well; one who feels alone, one who has been shamed into believing she’s nothing, or one who feels unloved, or one who is divorced from a reality of being able to love. These expressions are bound to hit every soul who walks the planet rich or poor at some time in life. They are part of the human condition.

Whatever the case, each instance brings wounded expressions that call for the healing of Christ in some way. Sometimes the wounds we suffer remain with us for a long time and the scars of those wounds reappear like the stigmata.  Sometimes we think we’ve overcome only to see the wounds present themselves again.  We think we’ve risen above when in fact we’ve just tried to move on.  We’ve sublimated our worries in denial and new situations remind us that we have not truly reconciled and healed. Our past creeps in and reminds us that our conditioned fears still have a hold on us.

This last week I served at a kitchen.  I had been there many years ago, but since I moved away I haven’t been back.  It must be thirty years since I was last there. I felt compelled to get out and serve and heard this was a good place.  I met a number of new people at the kitchen.  They kept saying, “You look familiar… Have you worked here before?” I’m often mistaken for the comedian Steve Martin, but responded, “No, I haven’t been there in a long time.”

My count of people who asked me that question was at least three of the volunteers and two of the guests. As I reflect on this episode, I can’t help but wonder what it is they saw in me?  Was it the Christ within me, or was it my brokenness?  I’d like to think they saw Christ in me, but I’m half thinking that they may have seen the broken part of me that needed to be there.

One thing I know for certain, though.  Although I recognized people who are struggling and feeling dispirited, I also saw glimpses of Christ in those I was serving.

Each one of us is a visible sign of Christ in the world. The gift of redemption that we give each other in our daily lives is the Advocate that Jesus was expressing in the “Spirit of Truth”.

When we serve in the Spirit of Truth, when we look to Scripture and are witness to God’s revelation, there is a healing balm that renews the spirit.  The astute one recognizes that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is a poignant reminder of light in the face of darkness, hope in the midst of despair, and a promise nestled in the bosom of our being that Jesus is with us in our daily struggle wherever we go and whatever we do. The gift of service we give one another and the recognition of Christ is the healing balm that regenerates the spirit of Truth.


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