Recent research on the neurological effects of trauma and its healing reveals something psychotherapists have struggled with for decades. The restoring of wholeness to victims of trauma…whether major traumas suffered by soldiers, slaves or battered family members, or multiple micro-traumas like repeated bullying, ostracizing, discrimination or other forms of devaluation…occurs in relationship with a caring person who connects emotionally with the victim. The affective experience of being understood, valued and loved can begin to heal the neurological and emotional damage done by the trauma.
Further, current research focuses on how the body carries the hurt of trauma, resulting in physical as well as emotional illnesses.
The God-given authentic self, seen in fully alive people, becomes buried when people are damaged by shocking events and people hurting other people.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes ashore in the land of Gennesaret, a territory of Gentiles. There he connects with the suffering, the outcasts, the physically and emotionally sick. He cuts across class lines, religious lines, geographic lines and cultural lines to heal his fellow brothers and sisters.
But these healings upset the social order of Jesus’ time. He is drawing crowds to himself, no doubt because he carries with him the profound love and emotional connection he has experienced with his Father. It is a deep, penetrating love. The kind of love one experiences when understood, respected, nurtured and listened to in the core of the soul.
By his out-of-the-norm acts he also delivered a strong message to the Jewish establishment of his time. The keepers of the Jewish norms are the trend setters for their community, the ones who control the lives of the Jews by their interpretation of the Law, the ones who see themselves as chosen by God to interpret God’s will for the people.
Jesus is not obliged to their power games or their hypocrisy. He IS obligated to the will of his Father, which is to destroy the boundaries between people and heal the brokenness of everyone, including Jews and Gentiles.
He invites us to follow him in being radical in our love for everyone in our circle and outside our circle…the filthy rich, dirt poor, straight and non-straight, men, women, gender discerning, powerful, homeless, doubters, seekers, flexible, inflexible, self-assured, timid, angry, kind, bullies and saints. And especially those who suffer the deep internal bruises and bleedings caused by trauma of any kind.
He calls us to imitate him by paying close attention to one another. When someone wants to talk, whether a family member, co-worker, clerk, friend, enemy, outcast or ally, we put down our phones, turn from our computers and TVs, stop our rush to finish our task and look the other in the eyes, quiet ourselves and listen to what is being said. This seems to be a lost art in our noisy, distracting world of technology, but it is absolutely essential if we are to support the healing of one another from whatever hurt each of us carries.
Jesus assures us we will do greater things than he did, by God’s grace. We are healers too. It is up to us to choose to go out into the world and imitate the Great Healer.
Are you ready?
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.