TO BE ATTENTIVE: Our Infirmities that He Bore
I have a photograph of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in my office; it challenges me to look through a lens of healing and reconciliation when I am grumpy or critical, or when I climb up on my self-righteous high horse. I was a pastor in the Windy City when this Chicago archbishop — a holy and inspiring man — was in his final days. Falsely accused of pedophilia by a former seminarian, publicly derided by a fellow-prelate for co-founding the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (to help confront the difficult issues in the Church which create polarization and then to lift these issues up for dialogue), and, finally, courageously battling pancreatic cancer, Cardinal Bernardin modeled for us a Christ-like embrace of the Cross. Whenever I read today’s suffering servant passage from the prophet, Isaiah, I am stirred by memories of this extraordinary churchman.
Truly he “atoned” for our sins… i.e., he bound us back together or “at-oned” us when we might have broken apart. And I will never forget that final vesper service in the cathedral; Bernardin had asked the clergy of the archdiocese to pray with him. In that homily he said, “My brother priests, if you don’t remember anything else from our ministry together, all I ask is that you remember one thing: I have fallen in love with you, and now I am willing to give my life for you.” Today so many people are so full of woundedness and hatred they are willing to kill; some are so full of love and the Kingdom of God, however, that they are willing to die… to self, to live for others.
Today might be a time to be attentive… not only to the love of the suffering Jesus on Calvary, but to all those who suffer and atone for our sins.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed. (Isaiah 53)
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.