Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wounds and all

You could still see the wounds.  When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the women at the tomb, then the Apostles, the wounds of His Passion were still visible.  In fact, not only were they visible, as if scars; but they were still present, as Saint Thomas learned when, at his own insistence, he put his hand in the gash in Jesus' side, and his finger in the holes in his hands.  Marvelously, however, they no longer caused Him pain, nor debility.

It is so hard for us to picture the risen Jesus, and two thousand years of art give us too many possibilities for them all to be true.  Did He hover above the ground?  Was He transparent, or glowing with a radiant light?  Was He wearing special garments, or anything at all?  His burial cloths, recall, were left in the tomb.  Was His hair perfect?
We don't really know what resurrection looks like.  That makes Easter more difficult than, say, Christmas, when we can all picture a baby in a manger.  While we know we are excited about it, resurrection is hard to picture. 
We know He looked different.  Right from the start, Mary thought He was the gardener until He spoke her name.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus thought He was the only one in all Jerusalem who didn't know what had happened on Calvary; then they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.  And He was unhindered by locked doors; that's different!
He also was somehow the same.  The Apostles recognized Him when He came to them in the upper room, albeit with some hesitation.  Peter recognized Him on the shore from the fishing boat. 
He was the same Lord, but He was somehow different: glorious, alive, and raised.  Whatever else was the same, and whatever else was different, it is clear His wounds were still present and visible. 
This should help us break the habit of considering wounds to be evidence of the absence or disinterest of God, in which we have been trained by skeptics and nonbelievers.  Precisely the opposite is true, as we who accompanied Him throughout this past Holy Week know! 
Pope Benedict XVI emphasized:  Fixing the gaze of our spirit on the glorious wounds of his transfigured body, we can understand the meaning and value of suffering, we can tend the many wounds that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day. 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. (Easter homily, 2008)
And this is most encouraging news for all of us personally.  We who carry in our lives and our relationships the wounds of sin, should bear in mind that this does not "disqualify" us for hope of the resurrection!  Because Christ's resurrection transformed the wounds that sin inflicted on Him, we can yearn for the transformation that it will bring to us, and our wounds.  While we cannot be certain how we will look, we have it on good authority that we will be glorious. 
And so when you struggle to picture what the resurrection looked like, go ahead and let your imagination run wild.  Whatever attributes that it enhanced, burnished, or otherwise made radiant in Our Lord, you can picture being perfected also in you.  For you will appear finally as God our Father has pictured you all along, and that is a marvelous image indeed. 

Please know of my prayers for you and your loved ones in this season of great joy.  On behalf of Father Gallaugher, Father Markey, and all here who make it their work to make the Resurrection real in you and for you, I wish you a blessed and glorious Easter.  Truly He is risen, Alleluia! 
Monsignor Smith