It’s that time of year again.
It’s time for the feast day of that saint, my least favorite saint, a saint I’ve begun to refer to as “she who must not be named” because I’m tired of looking up her name for the hundredth time to see whether it has one R or two.
Every year, I write something about how that saint is a beautiful and heroic soul whose story has been exploited to blame victims. I’ve written about it year after year after year. Every year I get heckled by people who tell me I’ve got it all wrong. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of her.
But I am going to write about it again, briefly, tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to pray the Litany of All Saints for Abuse Survivors and go on with my life, paying as little attention to the comment box as I can, because I’m done with the whole thing.
Tonight, I want to say: if you have been raped, it’s not your fault. That’s not what rape is. Rape is something that’s always the rapist’s fault.
if you have been abused in any way, that’s not your fault. It can’t be. Abuse is always the abuser’s fault.
If you have been told that it’s your fault because you were in the wrong place or wearing the wrong thing or playing hard to get or not fighting hard enough, you’ve been lied to. And I’m so sorry. I promise you that you are innocent. No matter what else you’ve done in your life, you are innocent of any guilt for having been abused. Abuse is always the abuser’s fault. I don’t care who told you otherwise. I don’t care if it was your pastor, your dad, your beloved friend, your lover. I don’t care if it was the Pope and if you’re just sure you read somewhere that the Pope was speaking infallibly at the time. I don’t care if it was someone who has been right 100% of the time before. If an angel from Heaven told you your abuse was your fault, let that one be anathema, because it’s not your fault.
The fact that innocent people get hurt by people who choose to hurt them, is a mystery I can’t explain. I can’t say why we live in a world where abuse happens. I can’t say why we live in a world where suffering happens. None of the explanations I have been told make any sense. No, not the one you’re typing in the comment box right now either, I promise you I’ve already heard and rejected it. I don’t think it can possibly make sense. Sin is a thing that shouldn’t exist, a thing that God doesn’t want, a thing that flies in the face of everything good. And yet it does exist. Innocent people shouldn’t suffer from somebody else’s bad choices, but they do. I can’t tell you why that’s the case.
But I can tell you something that I know by faith: Christ is in you.
Being abused doesn’t make you dirty. But if you feel dirty today, Christ is dirty in you.
Being abused doesn’t make you unworthy. But if you feel unworthy today, Christ is unworthy in you.
Being abused doesn’t make you ugly. But if you feel ugly today, Christ is ugly in you.
Being abused doesn’t mean that your story, your journey, your contribution to the world, is somehow all spoiled and ruined forever. It doesn’t mean you are somehow unable to be a saint. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be a hero. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. It doesn’t mean you can’t find a family or a community. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever finish college or learn to make art or have a best friend or write a book, or whatever special ambition you always dreamed of that seems dashed away now. You can still have that. But insofar as you feel you can’t, Christ is feeling He can’t in you.
Being abused doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. But if you feel that God doesn’t love you, Christ feels the same way in you. When it hurts so badly inside you wish you didn’t exist at all, He hurts in you in just the same way. When you cry out to God that God isn’t fair or that you can’t forgive Him for being so far away, or that you hate Him for creating you in the first place, Christ is crying out in you. When you can’t bear to speak to God and try not to think of Him at all because it’s just too much, Christ is in you in the silence as well.
What you have suffered doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love you. God loves you so much that one Person of the Holy Trinity came down from Heaven to cry “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani” on your behalf, and He cries it in you right now.
God loves you so much that, of all the things He could have chosen to be when He became incarnate, He chose to be a victim.
He chose to be someone whom powerful people would think was an unimportant nuisance, something they could use and torment and destroy to prove a point. And He was used, He was tortured, He was made ugly and ridiculous, He was dragged through the dirt and made filthy and unclean. He was physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually abused, so that everyone who looks upon God forevermore will look upon Someone who has been abused.
When Christ returns, we will all look upon the One we have pierced. And He won’t look like a Roman emperor. He won’t look like a dictator. He won’t look like a bully. He won’t look like the priest or the father or the mother or the nun, the teacher, the boyfriend or girlfriend, wife or husband, or whoever it was who did this to you. He will look like you. And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed in you, and all flesh shall see it together.
Let’s all try to get through this day as best we can.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.