In keeping with national tradition, we will gather again this month at our memorial sites to remember and honour our war heroes. We give thanks for the freedom that was won by their courage and sacrifice.
Many of those who survived the horrors of conflict returned to civilian life still suffering the wounds and scars of the battlefield, both physically and mentally.
Recalling one of the many experiences of such times, a nurse serving in an outpost hospital, recorded an important lesson she had learned. A soldier with a puncture wound in his shoulder arrived for assistance. Having cleaned the damaged area, the nurse prepared to shield the wound with a sterile dressing. The medical officer on duty however, asked instead for a small silver probe. Inserting it into the wound, he gently moved the probe until he found a spot where the soldier winced with pain and cried out.
“Now fetch me the forceps please,” the doctor requested. With care he then extracted a small piece of black metal, the shrapnel left embedded in the flesh, and finally allowed the wound dressing to be applied. He then explained that with the shrapnel still remaining, the wound would continue to cause infection and pain that never truly healed. The doctor used the probe as an instrument of discernment and the forceps for deliverance.
Brother Roger of Taize once noted that “in every man and in every woman there is a wound inflicted by failures, humiliations, bad conscience.” He suggested that such wounds can be inflicted at times when the soul longed for the comfort and direction of infinite understanding, but the need was not met. Thus we may continue to carry deep within our memory, the hurts that still bring suffering and even a bitterly distorted outlook on life and relationships. Is there a cure? For those who sincerely seek it, the alleviation of this suffering may be found in the healing power of Christ.
Firstly there has to be an honest recognition of the source of the pain, and secondly, a true desire to be free of it. When Jesus encountered a sick man at the Pool of Siloam, he realized that long-term invalidity had deeply defined the man’s self-identity and prospects. Jesus therefore checked that the man was ready to embrace the fundamental changes that healing would bring to his daily life from that time onwards.
So it is with us too as we confront the source of inner pain and address the issue of forgiveness, not only towards the one who inflicted it, but perhaps to own our own part in the damaging process.
Forgiveness and mercy often walk hand in hand.
Mercy has been described as being like “the gentle rain from heaven”, twice blessed as it “blesses him that gives and him that receives”. (The Merchant of Venice)
Nothing is lost in God’s hands. To Brother Roger there is always hope. “Transfigured by Christ (the wound) is changed into a focus of energy, into a source of creativity where communion, friendship and understanding burst forth.” (1981 letter)
As with the benediction of mercy, where it applies, so the gift of forgiveness cleanses, refreshes and generates healing. Only by surrendering the painful shrapnel of experience into the vast eternity of God’s love will we know the relief, comfort and reassurance that supplies new vitality, vision and aspirations for the way ahead.
If LOVE can be the silver probe and CONFESSION the forceps, then FORGIVENESS can work as healing balm.