Fr Jim Cogley
The setting of the Gospel of today is that first Easter Sunday evening with the Apostles gathered in the upper room and the doors firmly locked. The room was haunted by absence and full of bittersweet memories for all of them. The absence of Jesus is a constant reminder to them all. It was here that the master had washed their feet and it was here that he had celebrated the Last Supper with them. It was here too that they had sworn their loyalty to him, which wasn’t to last even to the following morning.
All of the apostles were wounded individually – wounded by fear, doubt, guilt and despair. Their future was very uncertain and the fate that had befallen their master could have awaited them. They were wounded collectively because their unity was broken, two of their number were absent – one was dead, namely Judas, while another Thomas, was going through a crisis of faith. Like all people in pain, those early apostles had erected a protective barrier around themselves.
One of the effects of suffering is that it can isolate people who previously were very close. A survivor of the Hiroshima bomb said that when it exploded in an instant they all became isolated, alienated human beings shivering inside the shell of our their own unbearable hurt. At a lesser level so many families who were close up to a time of tragedy know only too well how easy it is to become isolated and drift apart especially when something is not spoken about and dealt with properly.
This is a real concern in relation to the Corona virus and how lockdown and restrictions will have affected us long term. Its quite likely that many will have been traumatized to the extent that isolation may have become a comfort zone that will be difficult to break out of. When freedom of movement is re-established we may find ourselves awkward and uncomfortable as we try to relate in the way that we used to. By being aware of this as potentially a real challenge in the future we might be in a better position not to remain in isolation longer than we need to.
In one bold move Jesus breaks through that barrier and stands among them. While they are most fearful, guilt ridden and aware of their cowardice and betrayal, he meets them exactly where they are at and how he does so is most interesting. If ever an individual had the perfect reason to say, ‘I told you so,’ it was he at that time. But, such words while they might be true, would also be cruel. In fact whenever we use them its like rubbing salt into a wound and we should think twice. No, Jesus didn’t blame or scold them for failing him. He carried no blame or recrimination. He knew how they were feeling and he brought something they desperately needed. He said ‘Peace be with you’. He said it not once but twice to make sure it sank in. In receiving his peace they were also receiving the forgiveness they so desperately needed.
Just theN the greatness and wonder of all that had happened must have struck them, that this Jesus who had gone beyond the veil of death had returned victorious, death was not the end of the story. It was as if they were witnessing the answer to the age-old question, what lies beyond the grave? The presence of Jesus there with them was the assurance that good had triumphed, love had conquered and life was stronger than death. The humble Jesus had triumphed over all the forces of evil that had arrayed against him. A fresh start was possible and joy welled up in their hearts.
One of the things we notice about the risen Lord that has always fascinated me is that when he returned from the dead he still bore the wounds of crucifixion. We would almost expect the risen body of Jesus to be whole and without blemish. In fact it’s by his wounds, caused by humiliation and torture, that his disciples recognize him. The wounds if you like were the greatest proof of his love and when he invited them to view those wounds he was really reminding both them and us of the greatness of his love.
It may well be that at the end of the day that its not what we have achieved that will be important but much more what we have overcome and that the wounds and scars that we have incurred along the way could become our proudest possessions.