Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
…But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
I have no memory of my body without scars. One opened me across half my belly as an infant. A more subtle one hides under my chin. A star shape on my left side. Two more on my ankles. Chicken pox at age 2. Scars across three fingers where a paper cutter fell when I was 3. More scars have been added over the years. Breast Cancer. Two C-sections. Laparoscopies. Acne. Laparotomy. Five on the right shoulder. Five on the left. My body is well marked and is a testimony to my survival. When my babies were born, I looked over their bodies with wonder–no scars. Their smooth, uncut and unbroken skin was a testimony of life made new. Against all logic, I halfway expected them to be born with scars. We had certainly accumulated our share of hurt and injury on the way to delivering them to this world.
Functionally, scars are relatively harmless. They itch and feel creepy crawly for a long time after the visible healing is done. They sometimes ache deep down when it’s cold. A scar can still cause mischief. It can adhere unhelpfully to other tissue, or join tissues that aren’t supposed to be joined. A certain movement, and the tug of the adhesion pulls painfully. Oh, that will probably never go away. You could have surgery to release the adhesion, but then you risk creating new ones.
Scars on the soul and spirit are less benign. Aesthetically they may be practically invisible, unless you count the physical scars of abuse or self-abuse. No one may even know they are there, and one often forgets even one’s self. Then one day new pain or injury opens the old wound and the tissue adheres again to where it doesn’t belong. Someone gets the brunt of anger, not deserving it and not knowing what beehive they just kicked over. Tears come out of nowhere in the solitude of the car. Defensive maneuvers are deployed to protect the old injury. Cosmetically one may be able to cover it up with cover stick, drape a scarf over it, and say “It was nothing.” It was something though. It was a reminder that scars can go with us to the grave. Scars can impair and confine our movement for years to come.
It is All Saints Day. Holy Scars Day.
Wounds and scars are the price we pay–willingly or not–for engaging the world in the name of Jesus. Wounds are Jesus’ business card, presented to the disciples after his resurrection. Wounds give Jesus credibility after losing everything on the cross.
During the years when we were losing one pregnancy after another, I came to understand that our grief and suffering was our willing price in order to have the hope we had. If I chose to set aside that hope, I could end the pain. Sort of. Except hopes that we set aside also create scars in our spirit. If I choose to stop being in relationship with someone, even then there is an adhesive scar where the hopes for that relationship that has ended still pull and tug.
The stories of saints who have gone before reveal the scars of the Church. Engaging the world with the love of Christ leaves wounds. Some of those wounds are not mortal, but through them we begin to see the world as Jesus does….and that hurts. We can’t pretend not to see the poor. We can’t dismiss the grief of the bereft. We can’t write off our enemies. That’s gotta hurt. Some of the wounds are mortal. Some have lived through such heinous times, and lost or dared to lose their lives.
The beatitudes make no sense, unless you dare to lose your life. Jesus isn’t making poverty, grief and infamy romantic. Jesus acknowledges that life is NOT always good. (Can’t put that on a T-Shirt though!) These words hold out a ridiculous promise that God remains faithful anyway. Life may not always be good, but God is. That’s hard to remember when you hear the defaming lie spoken against you. That’s are to remember when your children are hungry and the government just cut you from SNAP. That’s hard to remember standing graveside or bedside, or stand in the shower dreading the day ahead.
To those who dare to spend and lose one’s life, however, there is this lifegiving hope, this ridiculous promise, this unexpected gain when all is loss. Scars become places where we meet the scars of others, and in the meeting there is a redemption of their ugliness. Scars become our passport into a world that needs us as much on account of our wounds and understanding as it does on account of our power and resources. Scars, in short, become holy. Sanctified. That, is, the very place where God comes close and does good in the world. That’s a saint for you. The broken glass mended into a stained glass window, where the light shines through and glitters on the floor. That’s a saint for you.
Just maybe we will be able to look in that dim mirror, and however confusing it is we will see our scarred selves reversed in mirror image. Like looking at the back of your head after a haircut with one mirror in your hand and another at your back. I always lose my bearings and my balance trying to do that. That’s when I catch it though…that glimpse of Jesus, holding out wounded hands, looking through me and all my scars, and saying it…”Blessed. Blessed. Blessed are you when….”