The Power of Scars: Insights from Hannibal Lector!

This week's reflection is written by
V. Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS

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In the wake of Jesus' crucifixion and death, the apostles were locked away together in fear. They were afraid that they might suffer the same fate as their teacher. Despite their anxious seclusion, Jesus breaks into their lives- not merely into the physical space in which they were taking refuge. Jesus also breaks into the core of their minds and hearts. Jesus attempts to calm their fears. He challenges them to be at peace. He does this in a rather confrontational and mysterious manner: by showing them the wounds in his hands and side.

Perhaps this is not so mysterious, however, if understood in the context of words spoken by the character of Dr. Hannibal Lector (you know, of Silence of the Lambs fame) in the closing scene of the film Red Dragon:

Our scars have the power to remind us that the past was real”.

Isn’t it remarkable that the experience of resurrection did not remove the scars of Jesus’ woundedness: the lasting marks of pain, disappointment, misunderstanding, rejection, betrayal, humiliation, abandonment, suffering and death? These wounds notwithstanding, Christ's resurrection powerfully demonstrates that pain, sadness, suffering and injustice - as real as they are - do not, ultimately, wield the last word. While suffering was clearly a part of Jesus’ life, there is so much more to Jesus’ life than suffering. After all, Jesus did not love to suffer – Jesus suffered because he loved.

St. Francis de Sales wrote:

We must often recall that our Lord has saved us by his suffering and endurance, and that we must work out our salvation by sufferings and afflictions, enduring with all possible forbearance the injuries, denials and discomforts we meet.” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter 3)

All of us bear wounds of failure, misunderstanding, deception, betrayal, disappointment and loss. Our hearts, our minds, our memories – even our souls – bear the scars to prove it. Just like the apostles, we, too, are tempted to withdraw from God and others, to lock ourselves away in some secluded emotional or spiritual corner, choosing to retreat into the shadows, living in fear of what other pain or disappointments may come our way. Of course, in the very act of withdrawing from life, we figuratively – and in some cases, even literally – simply add to our pain.

Jesus clearly demonstrates in his own life that our wounds do not necessarily need to disable, overwhelm or vanquish us. While these wounds may leave permanent marks, they need not rob us of the power and promise of recovery, of renewal - of resurrection - unless we despair, that is, we allow ourselves to be soundly defeated by the nails of negativity.

The wounds of our past certainly leave their marks in our present. However, those wounds – and the scars they leave – don't have to have the last word. Turn to the love of Jesus, who knows what it means to be wounded and who shows us how to move through and beyond our wounds.

Indeed, Jesus’ wounds were signs to his apostles that their past with Him was real. So much the more that Jesus’ wounds were promises to his apostles of the even greater reality of the power of the resurrection.

After all, Jesus had the scars to prove it.