The Wounds We Carry

Posted in: Homilies

April 8, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

April 8, 2018
John 20:19-32
Fr. George Smiga

Today’s gospel is not only a glorious appearance of the risen Lord. It is also a humiliating reunion between Jesus and his disciples. Remember, this is the first time that the disciples have seen Jesus since his passion and death. During the passion, all of the disciples abandoned him, and Peter who was the first of the apostles denied him three times. So this scene is as much a fearful reckoning as a joyful reunion. The disciples would be justly afraid of what Jesus would say to them. What he says to them is, “Peace be with you.” Jesus tells the disciples upfront that they are forgiven, that their relationship with him can continue. At these words, the disciples rejoice.

But although the disciples are forgiven, it would be wrong to conclude that their betrayal has been erased. Although Jesus offers to the disciples his peace, this does not mean that they have been returned to the condition they were in before their sin. This is why Jesus shows them his hands and his side. His body bears the wounds of his passion. Those marks are present, in part, because of the failure of his friends. So although this gospel is about forgiveness and reconciliation, it also tells us that the failure of the disciples cannot be completely eliminated. Jesus will bear the mark of their sin always.

When we fail in some significant way, there is always the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. But we must also have the strength to face the consequences for what we have done. If out of selfishness or fear we betray a friend and put an important relationship at risk, we can and should apologize and ask for forgiveness. But even after we are forgiven, we will always know that we placed something unworthy above the value of our friend. If we betray a confidence or tell a lie which seriously hurts someone personally or financially, we should repent. But even if we are reconciled, we will always remember how we were weak enough to hurt another person. The wounds of our sins can be healed, but they always remain visible. Years later, when we remember our failure, we will find ourselves saying, “Was I really that selfish? Was I really that weak? Did I fall so short from the person I was called to be?”

Today’s gospel warns us not to be naïve. Our failures, though forgiven, still follow us. On days we are weak they haunt us still. This is why today’s gospel also gives us hope. The wounds of Jesus are present, but they are displayed on a glorified body. The disciples are flawed, but they receive Jesus’ peace. Even though the failures of our lives cannot be completely erased, with God’s help, we can find the strength to continue—to build a life of growth, love, and service. Like Jesus’ body, we will always carry the marks of our weakness and fear. But with God’s grace we can also reflect the glory of the resurrection, and thus find the courage to shout, “Alleluia.”

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