Mysteries of Holy Week and Easter resonate with conference theme of ‘Mission: Journey into Healing’

A reflection by Titus Presler, GEMN executive director

“Mission: Journey into Healing,” the theme of the 2023 GlobalMission Conference, recognizes that humanity’s yearning for healing reflects God’s yearning for healing.

And what is healing, after all?  It’s not easy to define, but we all sense what it’s about. With physical bodies, we start with a wound, an infection or a disease. When there’s a wound, we know to clean it out, anoint it with ointment that prevents infection, and then monitor the development of a scab and the growing in of new tissue, which gradually covers over the wound.

“Hey, it’s healed over!” we say, marveling at the body’s capacity to recover.  Here healing means restoration.  Often a scar remains, a sign of both woundedness and healing.

Psychic wounds stem from neglect, betrayal, contempt, hatred and violence.  Individuals bear them through myriad events in their lives.  Social and ethnic groups bear them, often as a result of racism and ethnic hatreds.  Often entire societies bear them, as among nations after major wars.  The healing of psychic wounds is harder to manage, monitor and bring to fruition, but they’re just as important as physical wounds.  The fruit of healing psychic wounds is reconciliation.  Scars may remain, but there is healing.

Holy Week and Good Friday highlight the spiritual woundedness of the human condition, the alienation between God and humanity that all those psychic wounds signify.  Psychic wounds typically are the result of sin, which the Catechism defines as seeking our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, other people and all creation.

However much we may long for healing, God longs for it more.  Hence the Incarnation, God becoming one of us and living alongside us in Jesus of Nazareth – God on mission into the human story.  In Jesus, God lived out a human story, and in Holy Week and Easter we see that story especially vividly – betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, abandonment, death.  And then resurrection.

“By his wounds we are healed,” says Isaiah about the Suffering Servant in the Old Testament lesson for Good Friday.

John the Baptizer proclaimed about Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

How is it that by Jesus’ wounds we are healed?  How does the Lamb of God take away the sin of the world?

Absorption may be an apt metaphor for this mystery.  On the cross Jesus absorbed the pain, anguish, alienation and sin of the human community, of all people in all times and places.  Having entered the anguish, God in Christ absorbed all that woundedness into God’s very self.  And metabolized it into reconciliation with humanity.  The glad news of Easter morning proclaims the completion of God in Christ metabolizing the pain into new and glorious living in reconciliation.

This dynamic embodies God’s mission.  We who have experienced the blessing of healing in the Christ event are called to participate in God’s continuing mission of healing in the human community.

As Jesus lived and ministered in solidarity with us – as Emmanuel, “God with us” – we are called to live and minister in solidarity with others.  Sometimes, maybe even often, that means absorbing, joining with Jesus in sharing and absorbing the anguish, pain and alienation that people are experiencing.

In my own mission experience two incidents come to mind right now.  When the Zimbabwe government decided to burn out the settlers it termed “squatters” it fell to me to visit the afflicted families in their smoldering homesteads, pray with them, celebrate Eucharist, and load up their bags of maize for storage.  On a Good Friday in Peshawar, Pakistan, I preached at All Saints’ Church in the wake of a bomb blast that killed a dozen people elsewhere in the city.  In both those situations I sensed Jesus present – weeping, absorbing, reconciling.

Easter signifies and verifies that healing is happening.  Sin and death continue, but in Christ’s resurrection a crucial victory was won, a victory that promises full healing at the consummation of all things.  Jesus rises from the dead, yet the scars of crucifixion testify to both woundedness and healing. And my guess is that Christ in glory bears those scars still.

So the agenda of the Global Mission Conference is to explore various facets of mission as a journey into healing:

  • Alberto Moreno of the Diocese of Oklahoma will unpack a theology of healing.
  • Rebecca vander Meulen of the J. C. Flowers Foundation will address healing in medical missions and public health.
  • Christy Wallace of the Dominican Development Group and Deb Parker of Stand With Iraqi Christians will discuss healing mission relationships after Covid.
  • Walter Brownridge of the Standing Commission on World Mission will address healing from the legacies of racism and colonialism.
  • Carola von Wrangel of Food for the Poor, Dale Stanton-Hoyle of Five Talents, and Terry Franzen will discuss healing amid poverty and deprivation.

When we gather as a mission community, we will gather as missioners of healing.  We will gather in humility, aware of our own wounds and of our own need for healing.


The image of Jesus at Emmaus is by the Jesus Mafa Project, a collaboration among the Mafa people of Cameroon.  Image courtesy of the Vanderbilt Divinity School Library. 

Posted in Global Mission Conference, Healing.