A few days ago, I felt the familiar sharp pangs in my hands, right in the center of my palms, that tends to prefigure a carpal-tunnel flare-up. And indeed, if I moved too quickly the pain shot up my arms, making even my skin feel inflamed for a moment, sensitive to the touch.
I've learned to associate this pain with the Crucifixion, and even thank the Lord for it, as it draws me closer to Him especially in understanding His suffering. It made me think of His invitaton to all of us to suffer with Him, to unite our trials with His.
This often leads me to the consideration of mercy, learned in my class on the Writings of John Paul II, in which we read in Dives in miseriacordia:
"Christ, precisely as the crucified one...is the one who stands at the door and knocks at the heart of every man, without restricting his freedom, but instead seeking to draw from this very freedom love, which is not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of Man, but also a kind of 'mercy' shown by each one of us to the Son of the eternal Father. In the whole of this messianic program of Chjrist, in the whole revelation of mercy throught he cross, could man's dignity be more highly respected and ennobled, for in obtaining mercy he is in a sense the one who is at the same time 'shown mercy?'"
It is Christ in His extreme suffering that elicits mercy from us, causing us to seek to offer consolation. We cannot help but be affected when we regard the blood that penetrates our own hearts, sluicing through the open wounds ruptured through the scourging that we deserved, pouring through and over the thorns to which we were sentenced, and opening in a floodgate by the spear that we only hope will pierce our souls so opening us to the grace God has ready for us.
When we see His suffering, we cannot help, even in our own sinfulness, but desire to reach outward to Him to wipe the blood from His divine countenance, to wrestle the thorns from His head, to remove the nails that pierced His hands and feet. Yet we find, when we reach out in a pure desire of consolation, that the thorns rip cruelly into our own flesh. We find that as we seek to remove His nails, we ourselves become impaled upon the wood of the cross, united with Christ in a way we could never expect. It is in our own sufferings that we are finally united with our crucified Lord and find ourselves on Calvary, given the option to offer solidarity...or derision.
There are no other options. We can either carry on our work of consoling our Lord through our own sufferings...or we can refuse His grace and suffer in derision without seeking redemption. He who reveals His mercy to us also solicits our own via his path to the Cross, and demands that we accept our own crosses and follow Him yet all the while respecting our free will to deny Him and walk away. It is a consolation to Christ whenver we do what we are called to do. Even our small obediences are a victory, even our small pains accepted with willingness lead us closer to the mystery of God.
Christ can do a lot more with us when our feet are pierced and bleeding in solidarity with Him than He can when we are fleeing His own consolation in favor of what we think is solid ground. We cannot find Christ unless we are willing to reach through the thorns and let them rend our own flesh, allowing our own blood to mingle with that of our beloved Savior.