Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you” and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy.( John 20)
Catholics spread the Good News of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a gospel of joy and mercy. There is joy when Jesus shows his wounded hands because they recognise that Jesus their leader has risen from the dead; and yet his wounds are a permanent sign that he suffered unselfishly to open our way to God’s mercy, a mercy always on offer. To what extent is it true that we need to see our own wounds and be healed in order to spread the gospel of mercy best?
Think of the example of Sister Clare Craddock from Derry whose story features in the Irish Catholic. She went from living the high life, going to parties, being self-centred to total devotion to God’s will. As a young student she went almost by accident to a Retreat and on Good Friday found herself kissing the Cross, and in her own words,” I looked at Jesus and at that moment I just felt the mercy of God.” Now she was ready to offer everything gladly to share God’s love and mercy with the most needy! She provided an example of what good Christians do for society, kindness, patience, putting others first, caring for your neighbour, good humour. At the same time she could talk with real conviction about faith in the Son of God becoming man, the riches of God’s word in the Bible, sacramental devotion, worship of God.
She was a model of Catholic education, and the ministry of religious and of the laity. She told the world what love of Christ means, what joy and mercy mean, by truthful word and joyful example together.
It is natural for us inadequate human beings to search for a meaning to life, a sense of who we really are. Faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ God-made-man enables people to reach the place where our spirits can be set free. We receive and give love, mercy and forgiveness. Trust in God’s mercy can solve the mess the world is in. It requires patience. Even mother nature knows that. Last year I noticed that one of the rosemary plants was beginning to wilt so I cut off the bad parts only for the plant to get worse! This year I left it alone, watered it and it’s healthy and well.
It was a lesson on how to be patient with those who fail or go astray and how to accompany them on the way to recovery. To be a channel of grace is to let God’s mercy work. Jesus taught us to admit that we do wrong, that we are blind and need the light. Nobody saw the coronavirus coming. Our modern culture stresses the freedom to be whatever we want to be without taking care to find out first what is truly right and good. Now that we have to respond in a crisis we recognise the power of the wounded healers who rely on God’s mercy and have sympathy, concern, competence, understanding and peace to offer.
True Christians seek for the truth and for the grace to live by the truth and avoid being too self-centred. There is a sense of accountability in today’s gospel too. Nowadays many go astray by experimenting with drugs, New Age practices, weird self-destructive habits. Our simple answer is that the human person finds his or her centre of gravity by placing Christ in the centre. Our wounded Lord helps us stop short as he offers the peace that passes understanding, the peace of forgiveness, patience and hope.
At Easter the Son of God continues to relate to his people sacramentally, through spiritual and material things. He emptied himself in the Eucharist where the bread and wine, work of human hands, are changed sacramentally into Christ’s Body and Blood giving us spiritual nourishment. We are enabled to participate in Christ’s very life in a visible way and are raised to a higher level. Now is the opportunity to tell the world that we are glad to be channels of God’s mercy. We have received from a wounded and generous Saviour all that it takes to bring peace into a world. At the time of the Apostles the world longed for true teaching, genuine friendship, celebration in prayer and charitable concern for all wounded humankind. Today let us continue to be channels of joy and peace.