Fr. George Smiga
April 7, 2013
John 20: 19-31
Easter is a season of joy. Alleluia is the Easter song. So we would suppose that the stories of Jesus’ Easter appearances would be consistently positive and joyful. They are in large part that way. In today’s gospel, for example, Jesus appears in glory, the disciples rejoice, he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, and assists Thomas in overcoming his doubt. All this is positive. But not everything is joyful. There is a shadow in the midst of this joy which prompts us to ask, “What are the wounds doing there?” Why does the body of the risen Lord still retain the wounds of his passion? Is not Good Friday over? Is not Easter a new beginning? Why then do the nail marks and the gash in Jesus’ side remain?
This question seems to pose a problem. But it emerges as a gift. The wounds in the body of the risen Christ, do not indicate that the resurrection is incomplete. In fact, they show its power. The risen Jesus re-defines what joy is.
Often times, when we think of joy, when we think of being happy, we imagine a perfect situation without trouble or pain. We picture a serene peace, in which no shadow or trouble ever intrudes. But, when we adopt this approach to happiness, it renders joy largely inaccessible to us, because as we live our life, trouble and pain consistently assert themselves: the loss of someone we love, a mistake that has disastrous consequences, a hurt we cannot heal. As these negative events come to us, our immediate reaction is to try to push them away. We want to forget about them. We do not want to look back. We want to look ahead, to move on with life. But as we try to forget, as we try to move forward, these negative troubles follow us. And every time we think of them, they rob us of joy.
This is why Jesus redefines joy. The wounds in the risen body of Christ tell us that the way to be happy is not to forget our loss, not to deny our mistakes, not to ignore our pain. Instead, when these negative realities come to us, we are called to accept them and then to make them a part of a new body, a new body dedicated to life.
When we take the negative things in our life and accept them instead of reject them, include them rather than deny them, we gain the power to transform them. When we take the wounds of our life and make them a part of a new body, a body dedicated to generosity, to hope and to love; then the destructive power of those wounds is neutralized because they have now become a part of something that is greater and better.
There are some wounds we will never erase. We will never forget the loss of someone that we love, or the mistakes we have made. There will always be a certain fear or sadness as a part of our life. But, if we can accept those negative things and make them a part of a new body, they need not paralyze us.
Like the wounds in Jesus’ risen body, the wounds in our life will not disappear. But they need not rob us of joy. They can become a part of a new kind of happiness. They can be signs of a wounded past whose memory does not mar the power of a resurrected life.