He is not here. He is risen!” Two thousand years after the resurrection these words still have the power to startle us. When the women disciples first heard those words, they did not know what to make of them. The Easter alleluia came only after the disciples’ repeated encounters with the Lord. Their first reactions were confusion, curiosity, disbelief. The community was hidden away in fear and grief until Jesus breathed his Spirit upon them. Today, as we grapple with the loss, disillusionment and brokenness in our own lives and in our church, those first encounters with Thomas, Mary and Peter, should be signals for us of the power of the Resurrection to heal and unite us in the body of the risen Lord.
The Easter story is full of paradox and surprise. Consider Jesus’ wounds. Even in his risen glory, Jesus carried with him the signs of his suffering. Yet his woundedness did not prevent him from commissioning the disciples to preach. We too live in a wounded world, riven by sin and division, yet we still find our way to the empty tomb, to proclaim the glory of his resurrection.
The Apostle Thomas was the first to confront Jesus’ wounds. Jesus challenged the doubter to touch his side to confirm that he had risen. Jesus’ wounds are a reminder of his suffering and death. Though he is risen from the dead, Jesus has not abandoned the deepest marks of his life on earth. Far from scolding Thomas when he refused to believe, Jesus invited him to feel his wounds and thus welcomed him back to the community of believers. Like Thomas, we are invited to probe Jesus’ wounds and to proclaim our faith in him. By his wounds, “we are healed.” Jesus’ wounds speak of his patient presence in the frail humanity that makes up the church. In his brokenness, we are made whole.
Jesus’ wounds are also signs of his solidarity with a broken world. They invite us to see the face of God in those who suffer in our world: the victims of war, disease and natural disaster, the victims of torture, exploitation and repressive government. When we fall prey to anger or jealousy, or resign ourselves to apathy, we contribute to the suffering in our world. By allowing a broken relationship to fester or by failing to attend to the poor in our lives, we deepen Jesus’ wounds. The wounds of Jesus in glory are reminders that his Spirit can empower us to bring comfort, healing and justice, just as he did.
In our church, too, we see signs of Jesus’ suffering. The departure from the church of young Catholics, especially women, is a source of great sadness. Women religious helped build the church, and for centuries mothers passed on the faith to their children. Yet too often today women’s voices, even distinguished ones, are dismissed. Without the support and perspective of women, the Catholic community is a sorely wounded one. Catholic women should know that just as Jesus had remarkable friendships with women during his public ministry, so Christ finds joy in their company today. They should be confident, too, that just as he sent Magdalene as “the apostle to the apostles,” the risen Christ will have pioneering missions for them today among the people of God.
Like Mary and the apostles, we are called upon to proclaim Christ’s rising, but we must not be afraid to accept our own wounds. We are a sinful people, and the church is marred by our sins. Yet these failings must not be an obstacle to our evangelization. How do we move ahead? In his company. There Jesus will bind up our wounds so that we may embrace the joy of the Resurrection.
Think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times on the night of his trial. By refusing to acknowledge his bond with Jesus, Peter placed himself outside the Christian community. But Peter wept over his betrayal, and then Jesus sought him out, invited his love and commissioned him to “feed my sheep.” Peter, the first among the apostles, was always an imperfect disciple. His love for Jesus was not sealed until his death, when he was led, in perfect identification with his Lord, “where he would not go.” Jesus reconciled Peter with the community of disciples. He recognized the wounds of division and healed them. By doing so, he enabled Peter to embark on his ministry. Jesus shows us the path to unity and inclusion.
By meditating upon the Easter mystery, we can discover the healing grace that Jesus brought to the early community of disciples and that he continues to pour out upon us today. Celebrating the Easter story deepens our companionship with the Lord and with one another. Just as Jesus commissioned Mary and Peter and then all those gathered around him in Jerusalem, he continues to commission us to spread his good news with joy to the men and women of our day. The wounded Christ helps us to live in a wounded world. The risen Christ can help us to redeem it.