Friday, May 29, 2009

4-19-2009: Divine Mercy Sunday (B)

Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35/Psalm 118/1 John 5:1-6/John 20:19-31
The gospel today is not unlike an episode on that engaging, if sometimes stomach-churning, TV show - CSI. Only, the forensic investigator in the gospel rendition isn’t some well-educated yuppie from Miami but a crude and doubting fisherman from the Galilee. Thomas the Apostle – the Doubter – takes his hand and explores the wounds of crucifixion in Jesus’ body. The difference in the venues (Miami vs. Jerusalem) is that, in the former, we’re dealing with a corpse while, in the latter, Jesus is alive and telling Thomas where to stick his dirty fingers. The gospel writer’s intent is obvious: to emphasize that Jesus was no ghost, no phantom or phantasm; in other words, no idol. Idolatry deludes, as Pope Benedict recently said when visiting France, and turns its worshippers away from reality and places them in the kingdom of mere appearances.

Thomas, unafraid to get his hands dirty, jumps into the fray as pragmatic doubter, blue-collar skeptic with a matter-of-fact wisdom. He’s a hands-on type of guy. Not interested in wasting time on mere appearances, Thomas wants the real thing - harsh and cruel though it seem. Phantoms, by definition, are disembodied spirits. Their lack of wounds betrays their lack of experience with suffering, so un-human; and with the advent of Easter we now know, so un-divine as well. Easter is ultimately more about the body than the soul. Easter declares that the body matters, because matter is good; and what happens to the body has eternal consequences.
Thomas explores the wounds in Jesus’ body – in the Body of Christ. The command extends to us as well: put your finger here, place your hand there and explore the wounds in the Body of Christ which, by dogmatic definition, is the Church. When we explore the wounds which the Body of Christ, the Church, has borne through the centuries we find many. Wounds suffered from those who have hated her, but also wounds suffered from those who have professed to love her as well. From repugnant and immoral popes of the Renaissance to the clergy sex-abuse scandals of today, the Body of Christ bears the marks of crucifixion through history. Although the wounds never disappear, scars can form and healing take place, the gospel hints, when we are willing to be more like Thomas (and perhaps those forensic experts from CSI as well) searching those wounds for answers: not only how such things could have happened, but why as well.

A linguistic anomaly serves us here: the word blessure in French, obviously cognate with English blessing, translates as wound, revealing the great paradox and promise which is Easter: wounds and blessings – as intimately related as body and soul – can be the very pathways to peace if we have the courage, and audacity, to face what’s real and not dawdle in a kingdom of mere appearances.

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