04 April 2018

The wounds of the Body of Christ. Sunday Reflections, Second Sunday of Easter, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville

John 20:19-31

Today is now known also as 'Sunday of Divine Mercy' and in some English-speaking countries as 'Low Sunday'.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 20:19 - 31 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Christ and Doubting Thomas, Andrea del Verrocchio [Web Gallery of Art]

I carry a scar on one of my hips from surgery when I was 17. I can't even remember which hip. But the scar is there, along with a couple of smaller scars from accidents when I was young. I hardly ever think about them. But they are there.

St Thomas's instinct was right: Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. He knew that if the Lord was truly risen he would carry the scars of his suffering. And he carries them for all eternity.

Scars are reminders of wounds that were. The Risen Body of Christ carries the scars of his Passion and Crucifixion but they are no longer wounds.

But the Body of Christ that is the Church is being wounded daily. The world that God created is being wounded daily. In the first reading during the Easter Vigil (Genesis 1: 1 - 2:2) we heard these words: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them . . . God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good

But today we see much that he had made and that was very good destroyed or being destroyed. We see countless persons created in his image, in the image of God, being killed in endless conflicts.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we read: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

On Easter Monday this year four members of a Catholic family were shot dead in Quetta, Pakistan, by members of the so-called Islamic State. The victims were Pervaiz Masih, Tariq Masih, Imran Masih and Firdous Bibi. They were killed because each was a temple of the Holy Spirit, a follower of Jesus, a Christian.

After leading the recitation of the Regina Caeli on Easter Monday 2015 (Regina Caeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter Season) Pope Francis spoke especially about the persecution of Christians today. He went so far as to sayThey are our martyrs of today, and there are many; we can say that there are more than in the first century.

Today is the last day of the Easter Octave, which Pope Francis spoke about before reciting the Regina Caeli on that Easter Monday: We are in the days of the Octave of Easter, during which we accompany the joyful climate of the Resurrection. It is curious: the Liturgy considers the entire Octave as one single day, to help us to enter into the mystery, so that His grace is imprinted into our hearts and into our lives. Easter is the event that brought the radical novelty for every human being, for history and for the world: the triumph of life over death; it is the feast of reawakening and regeneration. Let us allow our existence to be conquered and transformed by the Resurrection!

As St Thomas believed when he saw the scars that Jesus carried after his Resurrection, may we see the wounds of the Body of Christ, the wounds of God's creation, the wounds of those made in the image of God, the wounds of so many persecuted Christians, each a temple of the Holy Spirit, so that we too may believe and say, My Lord and my God!

And may that faith be lived in tending the wounds of others - and allowing others to tend to our own wounds.

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia, Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia, Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia!
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia!
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!

The Coronation of the Virgin, Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

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