On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
The first thing that might strike us as relevant in this Gospel passage could be that the doors were locked. Detroit is filled with dilapidated houses with locked doors, boarded up windows, collapsing roofs and “no trespassing” signs. Indeed, we have our share of blights in Detroit. Invariably they speak of failure, of fear, of danger, of shattered lives.
Yet also in this environment, Jesus says: “Peace be with you.”
It is a greeting repeated more than once and, thus, becoming almost an order given to convince us to change course, to turn around, to regroup and try again. Or, even better, “Peace be with you” must be a very special gift, unique, personal, from the Risen Lord to each one of those who still have in their mouths the bitter taste of failure, of anguish, of dark nights, or stifling fear in their hearts. And, for sure, what is most remarkable in this repeated greeting is the fact that it was given, first, to those thoroughly frightened eleven men locked up in the upper room and, now, to us by the Risen Lord who insists that we touch his fresh wounds just as Thomas touched them a long time ago.
But, what is so remarkable about these wounds especially now that the Body of Christ is so big as to include every person of good will?
Before we attempt to answer this question, we should take another look at the reading from Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35). At first, it seems as if we had before our eyes the perfect picture of what the Body of Christ was like when it was still very small comprising just a few communities of the faithful in and around Jerusalem.
Can we assume that the gift of Jesus’ peace was making them so harmonious, of one accord and so loving? Truth be told, that was hardly the case. If we read on in the Acts of the Apostles, we would notice that even back then there were divisions, contentions, discords and even deception.
So, what this reading offers us is, in reality, not a snapshot of any particular community, but rather a tremendous outpouring of divine mercy picking us up from the depths of our real situation and inviting us to become the ideal community that his divine grace desires us to become. That ideal community in any age, ours included, would be such because of his infinite mercy and in virtue of the fullness of peace given it by the Risen Lord, in the power of his Spirit. This realization should, then, provide us with enough courage to look at the wounds present on the Body of Christ, on the Church, that cannot be hidden or ignored.
Now, on Christ the Head of the Body, we can see only wounds caused by infinite love and by infinite mercy; while, on his Body, on the Church, we notice both wounds caused by love and mercy and also those, alas, caused by human weaknesses and sin. On this subject of wounds of various seriousness and depth present on the Body which is the Church, let me tell you what I find as I look at your faces and hands when you walk up to receive the Body of Christ in the form of bread. I find them to be a partial revelation of the wounds that you carry around.
In the eyes of some, I can read exhaustion, frustration, sadness, fear, resignation as well as longing and hope…
In the hands of some I can see scars, calluses, deformations caused by arthritis, serious illnesses and painful conditions, but also the result of hard, honest work, humble service amid considerable pain and generous self-giving.
As I look at them ever so briefly, I wonder about those deeper scars that you manage to hide from everyone so that you can show them to Jesus, alone, with the certainty that he will be moved to compassion and dress them ever so gently.
Naturally, some are the self-inflicted wounds of sins, often combined with the wounds that are present as the result of someone else’s sins.
It becomes evident, then, that the peace of Christ has made us better; but only by a little bit. Hence, it becomes evident that Christ’s peace has poured hope in our hearts; even though not enough to fill them yet. It becomes evident also that, as long as we are still on this earth, there are some wounds so serious that our weak faith cannot yet capitalize adequately on Christ’s peace and on his Spirit. Consequently, we continue to be apprehensive, worried and less involved with our contribution to the good of the Body of Christ.
Let me mention the two most serious wounds that, in my opinion at least, the Church carries, presently, on her Body.
I am referring to the sexual misconduct of some priests and bishops in past decades; priests and bishops who preyed on children and young people. Their number is decreasing dramatically and we thank both God and what our religious leaders have been doing to protect the vulnerable.
And I am referring also to the ever-increasing scandalous dissent from Catholic doctrine displayed in so many colleges and universities that of Catholic have left only the name while, in reality, the truth of the Gospel and of the Catholic Faith has been replaced by secular ideologies as they succumbed to the dictatorship of relativism, political correctness and phony inclusiveness.
Whenever we (priests and bishops) speak, we can be quickly written off by many because of what some priests and bishops did 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
And the prolonged and repeated case of open dissent and blatant rebellion displayed in these, Catholic by-name-only, influential universities, is a wound that might extinguish or at least compromise the purity of our Faith in the young generations who are the future of the Catholic Church.
Now, confronted and hurt by these and other wounds, should we keep our doors locked? Should we allow fear to paralyze us?
Today’s repeated gift of peace should make us realize that the Lord has breathed on us his Spirit. It is the Spirit who empowers us to deal adequately and effectively with sin. It is in the Spirit that we should run out of excuses, of veritable reasons to be afraid or to shy away from improving our Community of Faith.
We can be confident, actually, we can be certain that the wounds that we share as a Community of Faith can become a source of pride, boldness and of solid trust about our lasting victory in the Risen Lord.