In the gospel reading of St. Luke, which we heard during the octave of Easter, the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Here in today’s gospel of St. John, before Thomas arrives on the scene with his doubts, Jesus shows his wounds and the disciples immediately recognize him. What do these two recognitions of the Risen One tell us would be believers?
Before Jesus shows his wounds he greets the disciples with the word “Peace be with you”. He then shows his wounds and once again says “Peace be with you”. He concludes this encounter by saying as God has sent him he is now sending his disciples forth…then he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Peace, wounds, receiving the Spirit and go forth, live the gospel way…a way not disconnected from suffering and our own wounds, wounds that we receive in life early on, now, wounds that are part of the mystery of bringing forth God’s life, of revealing a love that transforms suffering and brings one to know, existentially, this transforming love that is stronger than any darkness or death.
To me it is striking that two of the major resurrection appearances involve the breaking of bread and showing of wounds accompanied by Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. Pope Francis on April 4thgave a catechesis on the Eucharist. He is saying that the Mass is to enter our heart and when we leave the Mass our Christian witness begins: “Every time I go out of the Mass I must leave better than I entered, with more life, with more strength, with a greater desire to give Christian witness” (The Holy Father’s Catechesis, April 4, 2018). For my Holy Thursday chapter talk I ended with this saying of Br. Christophe: “If we understand the Eucharist we understand everything” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.29). Here is something of what Eucharist means in the words of Pope Francis: “Christians are men and women that let their soul be enlarged with the strength of the Holy Spirit, after having received the Body and Blood of Christ. Let your soul be enlarged! Not these narrow and closed, small and egoistic souls, no! Wide souls, great souls, with great horizons…Let your soul be enlarged with the strength of the Spirit, after having received the Body and Blood of Christ” (The Holy Father’s Catechesis, April 4, 2018).
My sisters: we have no excuse! Easter tells us to put away these attitudes that diminish us: such as, I am this way because of this person or those events of the past. This Love, which is the gift of Easter, has the power to transform, to change us from inside. Our wounds can become a strength, if we only believe, which is to say, if we live into the Love God gives us through Jesus, through following his way, growing into the consciousness that he embodied. No, the Life of God is so much greater and this Life is given to each one of us. With this Gift of God we can put aside our narrow, closed, egoistic souls and let them be enlarged. This is the risen life: rising out of suffering, rising out of our hopelessness and disbelief, yes, rising up out of our wounded-ness. Do we carry this precious life of ours with the dignity of being sons and daughters of God? Or, do we carry it bent over by criticism, anger, resentment, hopelessness, obsessive worry? Yes, we have our crosses; however we are to carry them with heads held up high, carry them, not be dragged down by them. Eucharist is the celebration of the Resurrection. No wonder the Pope focuses on it for part of his continued Easter message. Eucharist, if we let it enter into our hearts, is a sacrament calling us to be enlarged in mind and heart. It is calling us not to let God’s Gift be tossed away by our disbelief and failure to connect to what is happening as we enter this daily ritual.
To quote Pope Francis: “The fruits of the Mass are destined to mature in everyday life. We can say so, forcing somewhat the image: the Mass is as the grain, the grain of wheat, which then grows in ordinary life, it grows and matures in good works, in attitudes that make us similar to Jesus.” Growing in attitudes that make us similar to Jesus: we are given the grace and the Love so let us go forward letting our souls be enlarged, this is living the Easter gift!