Easter 02, Year A
- Whoever does not love remains in death (1 Jn. 3:14)
One would perhaps expect that there would not be any trace of suffering and death in the one risen from the dead who could come in through locked doors and stand unexpectedly in the midst of his disciples.
But then, without those marks of the nails and lance, the resurrected Lord could have been mistaken for a ghost. According to Lk. 24:37-42, in fact, the disciples in Jerusalem “were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost” when Jesus appeared to them. And it was precisely in order to convince the disciples that they were not seeing a ghost that Jesus showed them his hands and his feet.
The marks of the wounds made, then, for the disciples’ recognition and identification of the risen Jesus and their experience of wonder and joy. So, then, as it was necessary, by God’s design, that the Son of Man suffer greatly and be killed, for our sake, and then rise after three days, likewise, by God’s design and also for our sake, the transfigured and glorified body of the resurrected Jesus must still bear the marks of death and suffering. Being an integral part of the resurrection—since the Lord did not abandon his Holy One to the grave nor did he let him see decay (Ps. 16:10)—Jesus’ wounds partake of the holiness and glory of the resurrection, and hence are proclaimed at the beginning of the Easter vigil to be themselves holy and glorious.
But the holy and glorious marks of Jesus’ death and suffering serve also to remind us of the meaning and value there is in suffering and of our responsibility to alleviate suffering. “Fixing the gaze of our spirit on the glorious wounds of his transfigured body,” says Pope Benedict XVI in his Urbi et Orbi Easter 2008 message, “we can understand the meaning and value of suffering, we can tend the many wounds that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day.” Continues Pope Benedict XVI:
- In his glorious wounds we recognize the indestructible signs of the infinite mercy of the God
- of whom the prophet says: it is he who heals the wounds of broken hearts, who defends the
- weak and proclaims the freedom of slaves, who consoles all the afflicted and bestows upon
- them the oil of gladness instead of a mourning robe, a song of praise instead of a sorrowful
- heart (cf. Is 61:1,2,3). If with humble trust we draw near to him, we encounter in his gaze
- the response to the deepest longings of our heart: to know God and to establish with him a
- living relationship in an authentic communion of love, which can fill our lives, our
- interpersonal and social relations with that same love.
Love, however, laments the Pope, is often not what characterizes the relations between individuals, between groups and between peoples, but rather selfishness, injustice, hatred and violence. “These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet, although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters.” These are the wounds that need tending and healing “by the glorious wounds of our Risen Lord (cf. 1 Pet 2:24-25) and by the solidarity of people who, following in his footsteps, perform deeds of charity in his name, make an active commitment to justice, and spread luminous signs of hope in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person continues to be scorned and trampled.”
And there is no tending and healing of wounds—by the glorious wounds of Jesus and by the solidarity of those who follow in his footsteps—more remarkable and admirable, it seems to me, than that which was displayed by the primitive Christians. For “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers,” and they “were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” Their loving communion definitely made credible such bold confession as that uttered by the apostle Thomas, namely, “My Lord and my God!”
Equally credible, no doubt, is the confession of the Daughters of Charity who, on the feast of the Annunciation, renew their commitment to their Lord and Master and their communion with him and with one another and their solidarity with the poor. They recognize their Lord’s wounds in the wounds of the poor who have been given to them, according to St. Vincent de Paul, as their masters and patrons. All the more remarkable and admirable these women’s faith and devotion since they believe even if they have not seen the way the apostle Thomas saw. For them, it is not a matter of seeing to believe but of believing to see. Although they have not seen the Lord, they love him just the same. Even though they do not see him now, yet they believe in him, in imitation of the woman, blessed among all women, who believed and submitted, saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38, 45). And they rejoice, therefore, with an indescribable and glorious joy that reveals itself in their great gentleness, patience, friendliness, mercy and compassion toward the poor, toward even the most difficult and annoying among them.
Moreover, because these servants of the poor do not show contempt for the church of God and have no part whatsoever in making those who have nothing feel ashamed, they eat the bread and drink the cup worthily and do not have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. Their faith makes them see, no doubt, that the transfigured and glorious body of the risen Lord bears the marks of suffering and death.