homily – March 30

John 20:19-31

We are all familiar with this resurrection story of the doubting Thomas who refused to believe Jesus was alive until he could put his finger into the wounds in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into the wound on Jesus’ side. This gospel ends praising people like us who have not seen with our eyes nor touched with our hands but still believe – Jesus is raised, Jesus lives.

This is another lesson this gospel teaches. We hear that the doors to the room where the disciples were, were locked for fear of the authorities. This is probably true. But those doors may have been locked because the disciples were ashamed to appear in public. They were mortified by the way they deserted and denied Jesus in His time of trial. How could they look family and friends in the face?

But Jesus passed through their door of humiliation and shame and stood before them. He showed them the wounds by which we are all healed. Instead of tearing a strip off them for their cowardly behavior Jesus spoke only words of peace and forgiveness. Peace be with you – He showed them the wounds in His hands and side, the price of this peace. Jesus would not be burdened by resentment or bitterness toward these men. He wanted to move on. He had wanted them to carry on His work of proclaiming the kingdom. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” I send you to be messengers of peace.

St. Paul tells us that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and calls us to be reconciled to God. But we are reconciled to God only when we are reconciled to one another. Remember the words of Jesus about a person who had a gift to offer at the altar and then remembered he had a grievance against another person? Jesus taught us to leave the gift where it is and go and make peace and then come back to offer our gift.

Could it be that this powerful resurrection story is asking us whether or not we have locked ourselves behind doors of resentment and bitterness? Have we isolated ourselves behind doors of painful, hurtful memories of which we won’t let go? Have we locked ourselves into a dark room full of grudges? If we have then we are the losers.

Remember the story of the pathologist Dr. Charles Smith who destroyed people’s lives with his wrong testimony? One such a person spent years in jail because of this doctor’s mistake. Getting out of jail he forgave the doctor for the wrong done to him. But Jim Coyle had a beautiful reflection in the Star about this. This man forgave the doctor not for the doctor’s sake but for his own sake. He made up his mind not to spend the rest of his life brooding on the injustice done him. Coyle wrote that the word ‘resentment’ comes from a Latin word that means to ‘re-think’, really to brood, relive a hurt over and over again. Coyle claims the only one resentment hurts is the person who resents, the person who rehashes the hurt, the wrong. The person who wallows in that rethinking.

Christ has every reason to resent the way His friends treated Him on Good Friday, every reason to resent their betrayal, denial and desertion. He passed through that door. He would not let it keep Him locked in lifeless darkness. He passed through the door of embarrassment and shame behind which His friends hid and called them out of that dark room to the light and love of His peace and mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” What reconciliation, what restoration, what peace!

With this facet of our beautiful resurrection story before us can we have the courage to look at our own lives, our own relationships and ask ourselves whether or not we locked ourselves behind doors of brooding and resentment over past hurts and broken relationships and unfulfilled dreams? Do we need to look into the wounds of the risen Christ, wounds that healed us and find in them the example and the strength we need to let go of our resentment, our brooding – and forgive those who trespassed against us – if not for their sake, then for our own, if not for their peace then for our peace. If we can do this then we too can be embraced by the peace the Risen Christ brings to us through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.