If you have read more than a handful of my blogs, you will have realised how indebted I am to the writings and thoughts of Henri Nouwen. His book “Wounded Healer” was on the list of recommended reading when I first became a Candidate for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament with the Church of Scotland back in the 1970’s. It is still a book worth reading. Though some of the cultural analysis of the times in which it was written shows that nothing stays static for long, basically – at the risk of sounding patronising – it passes the test of time pretty well. I would encourage you to read it to find out what it means to think of Jesus, the Messiah, as the Wounded Healer, and what it means to be involved in His ministry in the world. However I have been thinking in the last few days of a phrase that came to my own mind a few months ago: Jesus as “Wounded Traveller.” That thought came back to me with renewed force today as I was talking with my friend, Rich Johnston. I will say more about it a bit later on in this blog.
Earlier Christian centuries than our own were full of discussion and argument as to the best way linguistically to express the mystery of the Incarnation: how do you express that Jesus was God and Man, accurately, without diminishing the reality of His deity or the reality of His humanity? I have always liked the way St. Anselm expressed the mystery. He talked of “The God-Man.” With Christmas approaching, I was thinking of that ancient attempt to describe the mystery of the Incarnation, and as I did so, I found my thoughts going beyond Jesus birth to His ministry as recorded in the gospels, and also to consider the way I experience Jesus personally. Because Jesus is “the God-Man,” I can find him on both sides of any human predicament or experience I may be facing. That might seem like theological gobbledygook, so let me clarify and illustrate what I mean. Take the story of “The Good Samaritan.” Although we must never forget the whole point of that parable is “Go and do thou likewise” in terms of being a neighbour to those in need, indulge me here for a moment and let me speak of the parable in relation to my experience of Jesus. I can see Him on both sides of the main action of the parable I could sum up my thinking like this:
At times Jesus draws near to me as the “Wounded or Stigmatised Healer” whose divine help I may accept or push away (despite my need). At times I meet Him in the “Wounded Traveller.” I can choose to stoop towards Him in compassion and care, or pass Him by.
All of this has put a new tool in my hands in terms of spiritual discernment. Christ is fact. His presence is fact in any life or situation. Part of being a Christian is asking, “Where is the fact of Christ?” in any given moment. Because of what I have outlined above, I can ask that in more defined terms: “Is Christ revealing Himself to me in this moment and happening as “Wounded and Stigmatised Healer” or as “Wounded Traveller?” “The God-Man” can be either because He is both. In Himself, He brings the help of God to our human frailty and cries out for God’s help from within it. He offers me the gift of His merciful, divine love and help for my own life, and also calls me to hear His cry of need from the lives of others. He gives heavenly help, and lies on the roadside beaten and bruised. He is the Mighty God come to save, and the fragile baby who cries from a manger needing nurtured, soothed, cared for, provided for and loved.
May you and I discern the presence of “The God-Man” this Christmas and always.