“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
Second Sunday of Easter Year B: Love and Mercy in the Mess.
As we approach the winter season 'down under', public health announcements on TV have asked that we wash our hands often to prevent us from getting winter colds and flu. Many catholic churches now have communion ministers use anti-bacterial liquid before distributing communion. Wouldn’t it be great if we could clean up the rest of our lives as easily? Why does life, relationships and sickness have to be so messy? I have watched many loved ones die in hospital with tubes and all sorts of medical devices and indignities brought on by a long illness. Maybe the messiness of our lives is not quite that bad right now, though it may have been at one time or another. Maybe our lives just have the usual daily stuff of: stress, rush, half-completed tasks, an overly-busy schedule, impatience and a short temper. We may have a difficult relationship with a adult child, a former friend or spouse. We wish we could break habits that we have struggled with for a long time or find the right medication for depression. How often have we wished that life could be as easy as using an anti-bacterial liquid that we could spray over our life and have the mess all cleaned up?
Our Jesus of suffering and the cross, gives us an image of the real non-anti-bacterial world. The real world of true love for Jesus was the mess of: blood, wounds, sweat, whip marks, crushed and pierced hands and feet. His story that we entered during Holy Week and was difficult to listen to because of the ugly mess portrayed by our human selfishness. On one level we are comforted by the reality that God has entered our human condition. Jesus was no stranger to pain, anxiety, failure and loneliness. He knew the betrayal of friends and the pain of shattered dreams. He bore visible and invisible wounds for us. Now that Jesus is resurrected, I for one do not want him to forget the pain and the messiness of our human condition. I don’t want an anti-bacterial, clean and sterilised cleaned-up Christ, as some paintings depict him after the resurrection. They make him look as if a divine, cosmetic surgeon has worked on him and gotten rid of the unsightly wounds of messy suffering. I do not want a Christ so far removed from this world’s experience, and the pain we cannot seen to do anything about. It is comforting to know that he is no stranger to the world's pain and that his wounds are a constant reminder and bond between him and us.
The wounds that Jesus showed to his disciples and especially Saint Thomas, remind us that he remembers what we go through and that he is with us when we have to carry our own crosses. St Thomas is invited by Jesus to touch his wounds. But in reality Jesus does the reverse. He reaches out to touch and heal our wounds and so give meaning to our pain. It is one thing to have been hurt and suffered pain - we all go through that. It is an incredible gift for us to have someone like Jesus who has lived and listened to our story to join us so as to assure us that no pain need be wasted, meaningless and without the possibility of giving new life to us. Pain, alienation and life’s failures can raise a lot of doubts in our minds; doubts about ourselves and about God. I am glad that St Thomas was there for us. He has gotten a bad reputation, but he voices what we sometimes are hesitant to say, “Where is Christ in all of my mess?” In today’s post-resurrection account (John 20:19-31)Jesus invites Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Today we invite the wounded Jesus to touch our wounds, the visible ones and those we keep covered up and keep hidden even from those who know us well.
Today the Acts (4:32-35) reading tells us, “with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.” We know where that “great power” came from because, at the beginning of Acts, the risen Jesus instructs his disciples to wait for the gift of the Spirit. “John baptised with water, but within a few days you will all be baptised with the Holy Spirit” (1:5). Then, as Jesus promised, on Pentecost, the Spirit came upon the assembled disciples (2:1ff). The Spirit gave those first Christians the power to witness. But the gift of the Spirit is not a gift like an extra hand or arm to help us out a bit. No, the Spirit came upon the disciples who had been wounded by their betrayals of Christ and then healed by him when he appeared to them after the resurrection. Certainly the memory of their failures remained, those wounds were still “visible” to them. What then gave them their ability to witness to the risen Christ Jesus? They had betrayed the Lord and his mission, but the risen Christ had shared with them his Spirit, and their scars and wounds were made new. Who would not want to proclaim the wonder of new creation healing, breathed upon us by the risen Christ? What love and mercy are in the mess!