New life demands going out
April 5, 2023
Thursday April 6th: Lord, I am not worthy
April 6, 2023

The perfect sacrifice, our redemption

Q : Archbishop J, how do we heal our soul wound? 

A soul wound is ancient; it is never new. How do we heal it? There is no easy answer.

On the one hand, this is why God sent His Son into the world; on the other, it is why we need to understand and learn how to receive the healing and mercy of Christ. We cannot heal ourselves. Yet there are concrete steps we need to take in response to God’s initiative.

The soul wound has its origin with Adam and Eve. They inflicted the wound on humanity by choosing to grab from the tree of knowledge, although forbidden to do so. By trampling on this one boundary, they inflicted a mortal wound on humanity.

The Original Wound

After the sin, the couple immediately hid from God because they realised they were naked (Gen 3:8). The primordial response to sin is shame—to hide from God and to cover up, a pattern which remains in our DNA to this day. Thus, the harmony with God and the self unravels. Then comes the allotting of blame, disharmony with neighbour and creation (Gen 3:12).

We need to see in this ancient text our story: our negativity, blaming, hiding, all have an ancient cause. Whether we look at the addiction to pornography, marijuana, negativity, or we look at the high murder rate, or indecency, or the high incidence of corruption, the root cause is the same—the ancient wound that has afflicted our souls.

If the ancient wound ruptured primary relationships—God, neighbour, self, creation—the remedy must bring healing to these relationships.

The remedy

Chapter Three of Genesis ends with the man and woman expelled from the garden. Early in the next chapter, the motif of sacrifice is introduced. In this new state of disharmony, sacrifice to God becomes integral to human living (Gen 4:3–5).

We are not explicitly told why the sacrifice of Cain was not acceptable, but Abel brought to the Lord “one of the best firstlings of his flock” while Cain brought “an offering … from the fruit of the soil” (NAB).

If the quality of sacrifice to God becomes important, then we must envision the perfect sacrifice: the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

In the Triduum, this is what we celebrate: the sinless Son who gives Himself freely to His Father on the cross, for our sake, and the Father who gives His Son freely for our sake.

The quality of this sacrifice is unlike any in human history. The Son is true God, true man. He becomes vulnerable and naked for our sake, giving Himself freely for us, taking the weight of our sin upon His shoulders.

As Isaiah 53 prophesies: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).

As human, the sacrifice of a sinless one given freely is the highest sacrifice we can conceive. As God, His sacrifice for our sake takes sacrifice to cosmic proportions—beyond time, space, and matter.

Thus, the book of Hebrews says: “Behold, I have come to do your will.… And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Heb 10:9).

Jesus’ perfect sacrifice is the unrepeatable karmic event—He destroys sin and shame past present and future—because it is God who makes the sacrifice freely out of love.

Healing the soul wound

I believe we have often approached the Christian mystery of salvation through a magical perspective. We have a naive belief that if we accept Christ mentally or “spiritually” that somehow redemption comes.

God is wiser than that.

What if Christ’s salvation is both a free gift, cancelling our debt, and an invitation to participation in the sacred mystery, teaching us to make the perfect sacrifice—calling us to do the same?

Brené Brown, in her work on vulnerability, has uncovered the roots of this ancient wound in humanity. In a TED Talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, Brown has opened a pathway for us to access and participate in the process of redemption.

Her core finding is that shame is what disconnects us from each other—that first sin. We are neurobiologically wired for connection. What stops us is that ancient condition, shame.

Brown defines shame as, “the fear of disconnection—Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it … I won’t be worthy of connection”?

After thousands of interviews, she realised at the heart of the research, one core idea: “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. The others do not believe that they are worthy.” This is fundamental. Wholehearted people believe they are worthy of love and belonging and so receive it.

Brown finds “wholehearted” people have: (1) a sense of courage—the capacity to tell the story of who they are with their whole heart, the courage to be imperfect; (2) compassion with themselves and others; (3) connection, as a result of their authenticity—the letting go of who they “should be”, in order to be who they really are; and (4) embraced vulnerability, fully. What made them vulnerable made them beautiful. Vulnerability is the key to connectivity.


The challenges with vulnerability, as we saw, are due to shame, fear, and our struggle for worthiness—the ancient wound. Yet vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love. It is paradoxical.

So why is vulnerability so difficult for us? Here is what she learnt from the research. (1) We numb vulnerability. Once we numb vulnerability, we also numb joy, gratitude, and happiness. Hence, addictions.

(2) We try to make mystery into certainty. This leads to rigidity, black and white thinking, and fixed positions.

(3) We project a perfect image of ourselves. We seek to perfect our children, rather than let them struggle, while showing them they are worthy of love and belonging. (4) We pretend what we are doing does not have an impact on others.

The antidote is to: let the self be seen, love with our whole heart even when there are no guarantees, practise gratitude and joy, believe that we are enough as we are.

Many times, I have said the marks of a spiritual life are contrition, then gratitude, and then compassion. What Brown is speaking about is a path to redemption.

The spiritual life is an invitation to vulnerability. As the relationship with God deepens, you begin slowly realising that you are loved beyond any limitation or defect in personality or character.

This overwhelming love invites you to gratitude, then forgiving yourself, and ultimately compassion toward self and others.

What is the Resurrection? It is Jesus’ complete extreme vulnerability as man and as God. The bursting forth of joy, hope, peace, and ultimately light, came from the depth of vulnerability into which He descended.

This is a call to full participation in the Paschal Mystery. If we are living half-lives, it is because we are being half-vulnerable, or not vulnerable at all. It is because we are making an imperfect sacrifice.


Key Message:

Healing the ancient wound of shame requires extreme vulnerability and a willingness to be seen by others. This requires receiving extreme love and believing you are worthy.

Action Step:

Practise vulnerability with God and your significant others. Share more and more of yourself, believing you are worthy of their love.

Scripture Reading:

Philippians 2:5–11