The following story appeared in the April 29 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Jay Wonacott
Marriage For Life
One of my favorite post-Resurrection stories is the healing and forgiveness of Peter in the Gospel of John.
During the reading of the Passion narrative during Holy Week, Peter’s thrice denial of Jesus is retold. At a purely human level, Peter’s denial of Christ must have left an open wound in his heart.
In the Gospel, Jesus comes again to the same seashore where he first called Peter and
now calls him back to his apostolic mission. In their encounter, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times to make up for Peter’s three-time denial. The kind of love Jesus offers to Peter is agape (unconditional) love. Yet, Peter responds each time saying that he can only love Jesus with a philia (brotherly) love. Jesus accepts Peter for where he was in his life and calls him to love in the way he can. Eventually, Peter grows to accept the unconditional love of God and gives back agape love in his apostolic ministry strengthened by the Holy Spirit. In the end, he gives his life for Jesus and was crucified upside down on a cross in his act of agape love.
Recently, I have discovered a healing podcast by Catholic therapists, Dr. Bob Schuchts and Jake Khym, called Restore the Glory. The purpose of the podcast is to share Catholic teachings on the human person and solid psychology to help people begin the journey of spiritual and emotional healing. The journey of healing and transformation is a promise of the Gospels. Healing is central to Peter’s story and ours.
We can learn a lot about the process of healing by studying what Dr. Bob and Jake call the “anatomy of a wound.” Understanding the parts of an emotional and spiritual wound is key to knowing how the healing process works.
It helps to imagine three concentric circles to describe the parts of a wound.
At the center of the deepest and inner circle is the wound itself within our hearts. The anatomy of a wound includes a deep look at the kind of wounds we have. If our hearts are truly made for love, then a wound occurs when we receive something other than love into our hearts.
There are two kinds of wounds. Wounds of omission – we didn’t get something we should have received – and wounds of commission – something bad happened to us to cause us pain.
Dr. Bob notes that there are typically seven areas of woundedness that he has seen in his clinical practice: abandonment, rejection, fear, shame, confusion, powerlessness and hopelessness.
The second circle around the wound is the question of beliefs we have about ourselves because of our woundedness. These come in the form of what are called identity lies and judgments. These are non-truths we tell ourselves about who we are and our judgments of others, which are projections of our identity lies onto other people. In our identity lies and judgments we get to exercise our will to embrace or renounce these beliefs. We get to accept or reject what we believe about ourselves.
The outer circle of a wound is made up of what are called our resolutions or vows. These conscious or unconscious actions are commitments we make to protect ourselves. Resolutions are usually statements like this: I will never ________, or I will always do __________. (You fill in the blanks.) This is the most obvious part of the wound. It is what everyone sees us do and how we act.
Let us apply this same anatomy to Peter’s wound in denying Christ. Peter’s wound was caused by his doing something bad. Peter denied Christ. His denial surely created some degree of one or more of the seven core wounds in his heart. Peter then most likely started to believe the identity lies that he told himself. “I was such a fool;” “I am just a lowly fisherman, not an apostle;” “I am unforgiveable;” “I am worthless;” “I am not a rock.” He then probably made judgments of his fellow apostles: “You should have stopped me;” “You weren’t there for me;”
“You left me alone; you abandoned me.”
Peter then may have made some resolutions: “I am never going to trust another teacher again;” “I am not a fisher of men;” “I need to feel safe;” “I am not going to risk ever again!”
This brings us to the next stage of healing. This is central. We need to let the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, into our hearts to do the needed heart surgery. It is only Jesus who can enter into the healing process to help us defeat our identity lies and judgments and bring about the needed healing through His redemptive love.
In Peter’s case, Jesus comes to him and engages him in the dialogue of love. Jesus’ words serve as a correction for Peter. He calls Peter to his authentic and true self as the Rock who can and will shepherd the flock that Jesus entrusted to him. Like any healing process, Jesus accepts Peter for where he is to be able share his philia love, which Peter most likely felt was forever rejected when he denied his Lord.
Jesus restores Peter through this process of calling him back to repent of his actions, renounce the lies he believed and receive the divine love Jesus wants to give him. This mirrors beautifully the healing process of repenting of our deeds, renouncing our lies and judgments and receiving the healing love that Jesus gives us through His wounds that bring life.
We trust this is why Jesus came into the world to heal all of our wounds. Isaiah 53 says it best: “He was pierced for our offenses, He was crushed for our wrongdoings; the punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
You may be struggling with a wound now and are seeking healing. I encourage you to enter into the healing process by examining the nature of your wounds, asking yourself about your identity lies and judgments that you make of yourself and others, and what vows or resolutions you have made in light of these experiences. Share this reflection with a trusted friend, therapist, or your pastor. Healing is never accomplished alone.
In this process, you must walk with Jesus and encounter him by the seashore. Let him converse with you to restore your authentic identity and help to begin your own healing journey. After the “long Lent” of the past couple of years, I believe the Holy Spirit is calling the Church on a healing journey. By knowing the key anatomy of a wound, we can begin to figure out how to heal so like Peter we can be about the ministry of feeding His sheep.
To learn more about the healing journey, check out the Restore the Glory podcast by Dr. Bob Schuchts and Jake Khym. Particularly helpful is their series on the anatomy of a wound.
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