James D. Paradis, O.S.A.
Acts 2: 42-47
Ps 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Pt 1: 3-9
John 20: 19-31
Growing up, my older brother and I would often spend weekend days in spring or summer doing yard work and landscaping at our home under the supervision of my father. Powerful memories stay with me from these times when, during really hot days, my father would remove his t-shirt and we would notice that both of his shoulders were strangely deformed, with deep crevices in them and stretch marks that were very noticeable. He never hid these marks or seemed ashamed of them, but never said anything about them either until one day when one of us happened to ask him, “Dad, what happened to your shoulders? What are those big holes in your back?” He calmly told us that they were scars from his time serving in the army, when he was shot up. For three years, he served in Italy during World War II until he was severely wounded by the spray of bullets. He never spoke with us about his shoulders again, but we learned from subsequent conversations with my mother that those wounds held painful memories for him-of the horror of war, of his own suffering, and of witnessing many people, including 2 good friends, killed on the battlefield. We also learned that his own injuries were incurred while trying to provide cover for fellow soldiers. Scars that we had seen as strange and ugly were actually signs of care and courage.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears before his disciples and shows them his wounds. Even in his resurrected life, he bore the wounds he suffered. He stands before this group who had abandoned him and were locked up in fear-and no doubt shame-clearly showing them with his hands and side how much they were loved. Then, without judging Thomas harshly, he invites him to believe and even to touch his wounds.
The Risen Jesus still bears his wounds. He shows us his hands and side. They are reminders to us of the crucified love that he pours out to us in our own wounded state. We all have wounds. Some are physical, some are emotional, some are relational. Some are part of a painful family history. Many are the spiritual wounds from our sins. Yet the Risen One stands before us and proclaims the Hebrew greeting, Shalom, or Peace be with you. The shalom of Christ means so much more than simply “peace.” It is the gift of wholeness and healing, the breaking through of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the Easter gift of new life bringing hope to us in the wounds we carry.
But the Risen Christ calls us further. As he invited Thomas to touch his wounds, he calls us to “put our finger there” and “our hands in his side,” but also our hearts and minds, that we might see this Gospel passage superimposed over the wounded mess of our world. He asks that we see his presence among the wounded in our midst. He invites us to touch with the shalom we’ve been given the wounds of poverty and hunger; of injustice and violence; of sickness, neglect and death. He calls us to be peacemakers by letting go of harsh judgment and lingering resentment, and showing a willingness to forgive. He calls us to be agents of healing and new life.
Our first reading from Acts reminds us that the life-giving power of Jesus, seen so often in his ministry, has passed to Peter and the Apostles. But this life continues in us who believe and are gifted with the Spirit of Christ Risen from the dead! Easter is not a “look back” at Christ’s rising 2,000 years ago. It’s about his life of newness and shalom happening right now. It’s about letting Christ in through the “locked doors” of our lives, that we might touch the pain and wounds of our world and transform them with love.
The wounds of Jesus are still very much open. They call out for us to believe in the love unleashed for our redemption and that of a wounded world. May we be bearers of his Easter gift, binding up wounds and remaking the world in newness of life.