Wounding Love

Sunday, May 10, 1992
| Psalm 23

What do you think of clergy who lived through the bubonic plague and never addressed it pastorally with their people? We are precisely in that situation today with ministry in "the AIDS era" - the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic, perhaps the worst disaster to have befallen humanity since the Great Plague of 1347 to 1350, where close to one-third of the population perished.

Mother Teresa, who established an AIDS hospice in New York City and an AIDS home in San Francisco, believes that "God is speaking to us through this disease." What might God be saying?

The church has always called on its members to "love one another," to love "because God first loved us." Indeed the marvel of the ancient world was "Look how these Christians love one another."

But these words sometimes seem to promise a reward, a benefit for all this loving behavior. Not anything tangible, of course, but the joy of knowing we are responding rightly to our fellow creatures, a kind of soul-satisfying fullness of spirit. While all this is true, we often forget to warn our congregations of love's darker side - a side which when experienced can stun and shatter us with its unexpected force. Love's power to wound, to injure both those giving and receiving love, is more than a result of broken romances - it is an enduring theological issue for the church.

The wounding power of love has always been a part of the church's memory - recall the many meditations on the Five Wounds of Christ, or devotions to the bleeding Sacred Heart. Yet today's church stumbles on the new...

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