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Coming Apart as Healing

The season of Lent culminates in the intensifying story of Jesus the Christ’s Passion and Death even as we believe in the renewal of Easter.  As we walk these “stations” as individuals and as faith communities, I find an article about remembering Thomas Berry (Eldering as Dismemberment, December 2023) by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of particular poignancy.  They were helping the aging Thomas disburse his collection of 10, 000 books from the Riverdale, NY Center for Religious Research.  Thomas had been brooding over the sheer weight of the project as a burden.  It also represented the work of a lifetime.  The study of a remarkable individual who influenced so many.  It was now being packed up and given away.

Blog by Sr. Jane Belanger, OP

For many of us of a certain age, this is a similar, if not as monumental a task for ourselves, for family members, friends, community members, whole congregations.  Perhaps through the lens of Thomas Berry, of Jesus himself, we can, this Holy Week, look at our own journey as a sacred “dismemberment” ending, not simply in painful (though it IS) dissolution and loss, but with meaning far beyond the material substance of what these things, these persons, these actions and memories represent.  Here are Berry’s words as Tucker and Grim remember them:


“This process is a great dismemberment, like a shaman’s initiation into his healing arts.  He goes on a journey where he is torn apart.  His task is to come back together, to reassemble himself.  His skill at doing this over time gives him his shamanic powers.  That is what this process is here—a dismemberment of a lifetime, a rite of passage to prepare us for the next stage.  The pain of loss is real; but the letting go brings grace and renewal.  How we manage it is the key.  Each step is a moving forward toward wholeness.  The healing powers come in—giving thanks for what has been and invoking fresh creative powers for what is yet to be.”

Thomas Berry

Here is the comforting recognition we can have as we celebrate this sacred season in the face of the dismemberment of so much of what so many have held dear, found torn away, despoiled, and apparently lost forever: life comes from death.  This is our faith.  This is the hope embedded in the very Cosmos itself and graphically demonstrated as we engage the story of Christ’s own self gift to us.  If only we are willing to enter as deeply as we can to this mystery, then we can discover the healing for ourselves, our families, our communities, our church, our world, a renewal far beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.

 Like the natural world around many of us in this very early Easter in March, the full expression of new blooming life is not very visible in the landscape outdoors.  But a gentle brushing away of last season’s leaves, the calculation of the lengthening of days since the Equinox, the glimpses of new-found life and purpose and warmth all nudge us as a people toward Easter healing.

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