Monday, April 13, 2015

Why did Jesus keep the wounds?: Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter)

(Listen to this homily here).

            Here’s a reflection for you this morning—why did Jesus’ glorified body still have the wounds?  Even after the resurrection, there were holes in his hands and feet and his side had the scar from being pierced.
            The resurrection appearances of Jesus reflect superhuman—supernatural—characteristics.  For example, he could enter a room with locked doors.  John points out this occurred on two different occasions: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst…”  Then, a week later when Thomas was present, “…Jesus came, although the doors were locked…”  It wasn’t like Jesus had a key, or it was a special room!  John deliberately points out an uncanny ability for Jesus to pass through walls.
            Or, if you do some calculations on when and where Jesus showed up—it was simply impossible for human travel (especially without a car or plane!).  Jesus could be in one place and then—snap—he’s in another.
            Or, remember last week?  Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ good friend, didn’t even recognize him!  Remember?  She thought he was the gardener.  At other times the disciples had the same confusion.  There was something mysterious going on with Jesus that made him other-worldly.
            So I ask again—why did Jesus retain the wounds even after the resurrection?  He was God, after all, and kept them deliberately.  Why?
            At first glance, they proved Jesus was who he said.  Today he tells Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  This was no ghost or apparition—this was Jesus.
            It seems that one reason Jesus kept the wounds was to remind his disciples then and now of the cost of our sin.  Before the resurrection was the crucifixion.  He was pierced for our sins and he now wears the wounds as trophies of his victory.  This is also the reason why we Catholics have crucifixes—a cross with Christ’s body.  We are always reminded of the price tag of our sinfulness and that there is no Easter without Good Friday.
            Also, consider what usually occurred when Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection.  He almost always did two things.  He first declared, “Peace” and then showed the disciples the wounds.  Peace plus the wounds is mercy. 
            That’s what we’re all about as a Church.  This is the one word that could describe the pontificate of Pope Francis (or love).
            Today we rejoice in Divine Mercy Sunday.  This is a brand new feast—relative to our 2000 year history.  It was inaugurated by St. John Paul II in 2001, and was to be celebrated the Sunday after Easter around the world.
            There is a rich history to this feast (which can be found on the Lighthouse Media cd titled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told”).  It involves the mystical experiences of St. Faustina in the early part of the twentieth century and a devotion to Divine Mercy.  It includes the personal love of this devotion by Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II. 
            Today I want to point to one aspect of this movement of our Church—the picture you have all probably seen.  The image of Divine Mercy features the glorified Christ.  Emanating from his body are two colors of light—bluish/white and red.  These beams show how Christ’s mercy and love radiates from his body to the world. 
And the colors are significant.  The bluish/white remind us of the water that Christ’s body gave up after he was pierced.  The red imagines the blood that he shed.  The early Fathers saw the water and blood as signs of Baptism (blue) and Eucharist (red).  Truly amazing as it is through Baptism and the Eucharist that we receive Divine Mercy!
On this, Divine Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in the mercy God radiates upon us.  We never forget what Jesus did for us, and we can always be reminded of his death by gazing at his wounds, or at a crucifix.  May we reflect on and bathe in this mercy today and during our week.

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