Somewhere in the middle of my quiet time, spiritual reading time---for September 17, 2017---I was led to open the Proper of Saints in my Missal ---an antique prayer book from the 60’s. It is the feast of St. Francis’ Stigmata and the story behind his receiving this gift.
Now anyone who is a Catholic is familiar with the word ‘stigmata’ and know they are the outward appearance of Christ’s five wounds received by some very special saintly people. St. Francis, Padre Pio, St. Gemma, and St. Catherine of Sienna— well, 62 in all that we know of received and lived with His five wounds.
Why were these saints blessed with such gifts/sufferings? It was St. Paul, who said in Colossians “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's sufferings for the sake of his body, that is, the church."(Colossians 1:24).
What does he mean ---“what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings?” His Passion and Crucifixion was the Final Sacrifice for all of the sins of mankind—right? Yes, for all of the sins of mankind---but St. Paul speaks of the sufferings of mankind, or the Church—the people of God. So, those who bear the stigmata are then “co-redeemers” with Christ, as they share in His sufferings and participate in a ‘special’ way in His Redemption.
There is another Scripture found in Luke where Mary was told “Your heart too shall be pierced so that the thoughts of many will be revealed to you.”
Knowing that we are all called to suffer as we walk with Christ, is there a possibility that there are other types of stigmatas that are invisible to the eye? Can it be that our hearts too, are pierced so that we receive “Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom and Discernment?” Just as Jesus and Mary had to suffer so that they could truly understand our sufferings, could it be that we must suffer for the sake of others? No doubt about it---the heart has to be hollowed out so that it can have room for love.
As our body ages, ---we suffer! We suffer with the deterioration of our body, in the bones, muscles, nerves, joints and don’t forget the EMOTIONS that go along with our daily walk as we continue to serve the Lord. Many too, suffer from other types of disabilities and illnesses from birth on up. Suffering comes in many ways and is very unique to each individual---but all suffer, and it is when the suffering is joined with Christ’s suffering---we begin to understand the reason why we suffer.
Somewhere along the line, as aches and pains increased with age—these words came into my mind. “You are blessed with invisible ‘stigmata’ that you can offer up to Jesus for all those who suffer like you do.” Of course what better way to put to good use whatever we suffer—physical or emotional? I remember my Mom doing this and saying very often---“All for the love of Jesus.” Now, I know what she meant.
So, hear this great, awesome and miraculous news!! You, my dear friends and family of God, are blessed with the invisible stigmata or the many pains that Jesus must have felt as He went through His Passion and Crucifixion. And, what of all the times that He was distressed emotionally as He walked among mankind? We grieve, we are depressed, (He was, to the point of death in the Agony in the Garden, remember) we are moody, frustrated -----Jesus experienced all of these human emotions! He had to so that He could truly say---“I understand and I forgive, for I know what you are going through.” Yes, dearly beloved of GOD, we are blessed indeed as we grow wiser with age and see the beauty beyond the crosses!”
Now, how is suffering stigmatas connected to “The Look of Love?" As we go through life, joining all of our suffering with that of Jesus on the Cross---how are we to look? Definitely not with the look that is gloomy, weary and frumpy. Nor are we to be proud and boastful ---reciting our long litany of what ails us.
How about putting on the “look” of one who is at peace—knowing that within is the Presence and strength of Christ as He walks with us? How about a look of understanding, a look that encourages and brings hope ---in other words the look of Christ’s total accepting forgiving love. This type of look will at some point have the person asking “What do you know that helps you in bad times?” The LOOK will eventually open doors to share the story of God’s love and help.
I received that LOOK of Christ’s pure love once—from a priest who had learned ---it is not the words that you say, ----but the look that you give when you see someone in need of Christ’s love. So, give the look as you silently pray for them, knowing; ---“I know how you feel.” Give to all that need it----the Look of Love—the Look of Jesus’ love. You know you are doing so, when you receive back from them—the look of relief and hope, the look that says “At last someone who understands and cares.”
How sweet it is, that LOOK that says more than any word or words, and speaks the Books of the entire Bible without saying one word. It takes practice, but by grace of God---your face will radiate His love.