The week ahead is, perhaps, the most emotional and turbulent one on the Catholic calendar. I struggled for weeks trying to write something for my scheduled reflection. It wasn’t the scriptural events of Holy Week that caused my stomach to churn, it was events in my life too closely linked with Holy Week that made things challenging. It was abuse I experienced, some occurring during Holy Week, that made me quiver. I’ve become comfortable sharing my life story, but when it comes to this particular week, I usually slip away privately, visit the grave of a friend, visit the empty church of my childhood, gather love and protection around me, and stay near with those who didn’t survive and those still suffering.
Beginning at age seven, I was sexually abused by the parish priest. I witnessed abuse of others. The violent attacks by a man that I thought was God, and in the context of sacred ritual and language, were not sexual to me. Terror, shame, and guilt sent my spirit into hiding. My brain separated itself from the reality of what my body was feeling. Shock and confusion rewired my brain, often diverting my attention to something beautiful close by. My voice was silenced. Unearthing memories, untangling the scrambling, and reconnecting mind, body, and spirit began decades after the abuse ended. The healing process began where the injury was first inflicted, in my body. At first drooling, snot dripping from my nose, violent shaking, and then choppy words whispered my secrets.
We experience life through our human bodies. Our bodily experience informs our brain and affects our spiritual life. Jesus lived on this earth fully imbedded in his humanity. Did his earthy experience inform his divinity?
By the time Jesus began public ministry his mind, body, and spirit were in alignment. We don’t know if he was born this way or grew into himself like humans do. Jesus exuded great love, lived in his own skin, and spoke with authority. He forgave easily. He went against the grain, confronted what needed confronting, cared for those who needed caring for, and empowered the disempowered. He stirred things up, disrupted the norm. People were both attracted and repelled by him. He experienced emotion. He sweated blood and turned tables. He wept at the loss of a friend. He took comfort in love from his mother, family and friends, the woman who anointed him, and the man who carried his cross. His human life is a model for living a life of integrity.
I’d like to encourage you in the coming week. Enter the week with your personal experiences, gently, and if you can. Pull the words of scripture off the page and into your heart. Let the stories permeate your skin and enter your body. Let your senses be loosened. Allow your feelings to be expressed. Get to know the human side of Jesus as you get to know your own humanness. Keep love close. Be gentle on yourself.
– Kathryn Walczyk