Wash what is sordid, Bathe what is parched, Heal what bleeds.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one evening at the Home of the Dying, approaches a woman, who had recently been brought there. She lovingly lifts the few rags which cover a gaunt body, like an X-ray, were it not for the sores, which corrode the dark withered skin!
Quickly and carefully, Mother Teresa provides a cursory cleaning and an initial disinfection. But the condition of the poor woman, who may still be young, appears desperate. Better to try to revive her immediately with medicines, a lukewarm broth and lots of love.
The wretched woman looks dreamily with eyes from which the gaze seemed to vanish. She murmurs in a whisper: “Why are you doing this?”
Mother Teresa, with a heart swollen with love and pity, answers her: “Because I love you!”
A light of incredulous joy reverberates from within on that hollowed face. “Oh! Say it again!”
“Because I love you!” repeats Mother with firm gentleness.
“Say it again, say it again!” The dying woman clasps Mother’s hands and draws her to herself to hear repeatedly, blissfully, as life flees, the dearest words in the world, “I love you!”
I do not know if you had the same impression as me, but when I first read this story, the very words of the sequence came to mind: Wash, Bathe and Heal. Mother Teresa, going to that young woman, rescued her battered body, “washing” it, reanimating it as much as possible with a little broth. With her warm and loving voice, she especially “healed” her heart, which was even more parched and bleeding than her body, because it had perhaps rarely been “bathed” by loving words.
What the little Albanian nun did for the dying young woman is what you can ask the Holy Spirit to do every day in your heart and in the hearts of the people on whom you invoke him. Perhaps there are times when you too feel agonized, with something inside that is not just dirty, but sordid; that is not just dry, but parched; that is not just wounded, but bleeding. He gives you His Spirit, who is not afraid to descend even into the most wretched aspects of your humanity, so that the promise-prophecy of Ezekiel may be fulfilled in you as well:
I will take you from the Gentiles, gather you from every land and bring you to your own soil. I will sprinkle you with pure water, and you shall be cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols; I will give you a new heart, I will put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
Now try to stop for a moment and come back into yourself! Allow the Lord to take you, to gather all the parts of you scattered in many places, worries, commitments, or distractions. When you feel gathered enough, call on the Spirit, slowly.
Come Holy Spirit, Wash What Is Sordid.
Imagine that the Holy Spirit, like a loving physician, comes to you. Do you remember that young woman? She was completely surrendered, docile, receptive, able to be amazed. She did not rebel, stiffen, and did not close her heart in fear!
Allow Him to lift the rags with which you may have tried to cover your most fragile parts, soiled by sin, the parts you are most ashamed of, but struggle to give up. Do not fear being judged, for He is the Advocate, the Defender. Just as you are; you are loved by God. “…you can reassure your heart, no matter what it reproaches you with. God is greater than your heart” (1 John 3:19-24). The Spirit is pure, fresh, crystal-clear water. What do you need him to wash?
Come, Holy Spirit, Bathe What Is Dry!
It may happen that the Physician approaching you, finds your heart dull, parched and withered. Perhaps you are a person who has suffered much, who has always spent himself for others and has been burned. In order not to run the risk of opening the door to thieves, to disappointment, you closed it even to friends, to joy.
You gave, gave, gave and now you feel like an empty glass. It is as if you have a desert in and around you. A desert that has advanced over time, where those little drops of time, of attention, of care, of tenderness, that make a difference, have been missing in your relationship with God, with yourself and with others: “God knows I believe it, He doesn’t need me to pray every day or go to Mass; I must always be there for others, say yes, it doesn’t matter if I am exhausted; my sister/my wife/my husband/my child/ they know I love them, I value them, it’s not so necessary for me to tell them, those are not the important things. Maybe tomorrow, another time, maybe next year.”
And we grow increasingly distant! And we get lonelier! How many times in the counseling I do for couples, or in spiritual accompaniment, have I heard these words repeated! And how many times have I too fallen into this dynamic of “desertification!”
How comforting it is to have someone to turn to in those moments! As a believer you know that the Holy Spirit dwells in you and you can invoke Him so that like life-giving water, He may come to bathe, to soften from within your heart, your mouth, your hands, your arms, your feet. If you invoke Him with humility, with trust, little by little He will quench your thirst, irrigate you, and make you fruitful and eager to “water” the soil of your relationships again with little drops of water: a moment of prayer every day, a gesture of forgiveness, a kind word, a greeting, a smile, a tender glance, a thank you, a “lukewarm broth,” or an “I love you!”
Come, Holy Spirit, Heal That Which Bleeds
It must have happened to you as a child, after you were hurt, that you wanted to hide your wounds. “The disinfectant burns, the doctor, touching them, makes me feel more pain!” Sometimes looking at wounds,
always having some to expose, makes you feel seen, important; you almost fear they will disappear, you cannot imagine yourself without them, because there is a bit of your identity there!
Or you can feel so scared that you have the feeling that chasm will never close again, that it will stay open forever, that it will bleed the same way forever, that your fate is sealed, that you will never find relief, meaning, or comfort!
Be reassured by Peter’s words, “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 1:1-5:14) and call on his Spirit. “Heal that which bleeds! Come and heal thou the wound of that misunderstanding, that terrible guilt, that verbal attack, that rejection. Help me to forgive. Heal the wounds that I have given to others, to that person, even though I did not want to. Help me to ask for forgiveness.
Deep in your heart, if you pray with trust, openness, docility, surrender, you will be able to hear Isaiah’s prophecy resound: “Then your light will arise like the dawn, your wound will soon heal. Then you will call upon him, and the Lord will answer you; you will plead for help, and he will say, “Here I am!” (Isaiah 58:8a-9)
Suggested Concrete Resolutions:
1) If I have invoked the Spirit as the One who washes and felt an invitation to Confession, I can recall those times when, after a long-postponed confession, I felt relief, peace, calm and took that step!
2) I can ask the Holy Spirit to help me identify the small drops with which to soften the relationships that have become more withered. If for example, I realize that all I do is scold or criticize someone in the family, I choose each day to address a word of appreciation and esteem to them.
This month’s meditation is by Sr. Simona Ciullo, AVI