Jesus told Saint Faustina Kowalska, “There is more merit to one hour of meditation on my sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood. The contemplation of my painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings me great joy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska, 369)
Throughout the year, and in a particular way during Holy Week, we are called to remember the great love Christ showed for us by accepting His suffering and death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The Passion can be difficult to meditate on because the suffering of Jesus is in some sense unimaginable. I can visualize a nail being driven through a hand, but I can’t envision the intensity of that pain. This fact should not deter us from meditating on the Passion, however. In as much as we are suffering physically or spiritually, we can offer up our sufferings to the Lord for the salvation of souls. In doing so we unite our suffering with His, drawing us closer to Him. And when we are not suffering, the effort of imagination and will to ponder deeply the mystery of the Lord’s suffering is itself a sacrifice that draws us closer to Him.
Jesus suffered in many ways during His Passion, and there are many avenues for fruitful meditations on His Passion. The sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross are highly efficacious means of entering into the Lord’s Passion. I would highlight just one aspect of the Passion that is not as well-known and may be worth reflecting on this week – the wound in the Lord’s shoulder.
Jesus revealed the wound in His shoulder to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. Saint Bernard is one of 36 doctors of the Church for the importance of his writings in elucidating the faith. He was also a mystic, and on one occasion asked Jesus what was His greatest unknown suffering, and which of His wounds was the most painful. The Lord responded, “I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men.”
“Honor this Wound with thy devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through its virtue and merit. And in regard to all those who shall venerate this Wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins and will no longer remember their mortal sins.”
Further confirmation of the shoulder wound of Jesus comes from the 20th Century mystic, Saint Padre Pio, who bore the stigmata (the wounds of Jesus) in his hands and feet. The wounds gave off a pleasing odor, like that of flowers. He also had a wound on his left side, around three inches long and in the shape of a cross. Padre Pio once remarked to a fellow monk (Brother Modestino Fucci) that he felt the greatest pain when he changed his undershirt. Brother Fucci assumed this pain was caused by the wound in Padre Pio’s left side. However, after Padre Pio’s death, Fucci noticed that Padre Pio’s undershirts were stained with blood on the right shoulder. Fucci prayed to Padre Pio, asking if he bore the shoulder wound of Christ. At one in the morning, Fucci awoke with a tremendous pain in his right shoulder. He felt “as if he had been sliced with a knife up to the shoulder bone.” This pain lasted a short time. When it subsided, he smelled flowers, like those from Padre Pio’s wounds, and he heard Padre Pio’s voice saying to him, “This is what I had to suffer!”
The Shroud of Turin likewise reveals “shoulder abrasions… consistent with injuries sustained while carrying the cross piece of the cross.”
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint Bernard composed this prayer to encourage devotion to the shoulder wound of Jesus:
“O Loving Jesus, Meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross, which so tore Thy Flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee and give Thee thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross, to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.”
May the Lord bless you and your family abundantly this Holy Week. May the Passion and the love of the Lord Jesus abide in your heart.
The Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday. The prayers of the Novena can be accessed here: https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena
Divine Mercy Sunday is April 16. Read about the extraordinary promises of Jesus to those who honor this Feast here: https://www.buildonrock.org/posts/complete-forgiveness-of-sins/
Image: Christ Carrying the Cross by el Greco (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).