22 April 2012
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 John 2:1-5
Many years ago when I was a seminarian I went for a swim. In the swimming pool before me was a man about 70 years old. I noticed he didn’t swim about but just kept floating in the water. Later when he got out of the pool I saw that he had a very bad limp and his legs were badly scarred. We started talking and he told me that he had been a priest in China and was imprisoned by the communists and tortured in an effort to get him to give up his belief in God. He didn’t, of course, and paid the penalty. The amazing thing was that he wasn’t in the least bitter or hateful towards his former torturers.
Aren’t there many people like him in our world today? People who show the scars that result from being true to themselves. Like the scars of poverty. I know of someone who resigned from a well-paid job rather than involve himself in the dishonest practices of the company he worked for. The scars of shame some people bear because there has been a suicide in the family even though it was not their fault. Isn’t it true that we all pick up many wounds or scars going through life? For some it might be the scars of a broken relationship, the scars of addiction to drink, drugs, etc. The scars some people have from being sexually abused or those which result from from a severe depression.
In the gospel today Jesus bears the scars or wounds of being faithful to God. Rather than being untrue to himself he denounced the religious leaders of his day for leading the people astray. Many of these leaders were mainly interested in being powerful, rich, looking after themselves at the expense of the people entrusted to them by God. So Jesus appears to the disciples in the gospel to convince them that it is really the same person whom they knew before as their master and leader. Now glorified, he still carries the marks of his wounds, his scars. The simple truth is that there is no such thing as Christianity without the cross. If one follows Jesus in life he / she will bear scars or wounds. Jesus went back to his father with his wounds. He is saying that it is o.k. for us to be wounded too. That is how God loves and accepts us.
Sometimes people come to me and say, ‘Father, I have prayed and prayed for God to remove such and such a cross from my life but God doesn’t seem to care, to listen’. Of course, God does listen. Maybe the answer for the person is that in spite of a very difficult, life situation, they get the courage and strength to continue, when others would give up. Jesus never promised to take away all our crosses but he did promise to walk by our side carrying them with us.
Recently, I met a family with a badly handicapped child. Before birth, the mother knew this was a big possibility, yet she decided not to have an abortion. When the child was born handicapped the grandmother said. ‘Well, I suppose that we will all have to show an extra amount of love for this child’
Sometimes difficult situations draw incredible courage and love from people facing them. But let us not in any way romanticise them. They are not to be sought after but if they do come, Jesus has been there before us. He knows it is very costly to be faithful to God. A German theologian called it the cost of discipleship. He himself was hanged by the Nazis for denouncing the evils of Hitler and Nazism.
When Jesus appears in the gospel, he asks the disciples for a piece of fish in order to eat it and encourage them to believe it is really he who has risen. He didn’t ask for much, a piece of grilled fish. God continues to ask each of us to give whatever we can, to share with him what is possible. He still does it, but today he wants us to share with his body here on earth, his children now living in our world. So each of us has this ability – to share what we can with Jesus, now present in his people. It will still cost and maybe we will be scarred or wounded in responding to his call. The scars of those who try to look after an aging parent, of the great patience demanded from caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. The scars of continuing to love a teenage son who has disgraced the family by taking to drugs. The scars of accepting without a judgmental attitude and truly loving a member of the family found to be suffering from AIDS etc.
The Good News is that God gives each of us the capacity to be faithful to him in those around us. Rather than running away from the problems if we try and deal with them, knowing God is there with us, then the cross, the wounds, the scars, the crucifixion will be a prelude to the glory the Risen Christ experienced. But this deep peace and joy, which comes with the resurrection, is already ours here below. Heaven begins already as St. John says. Today we live in a world for which pleasure is the goal for very many. ‘If you want it, do it or have it’. Sadly, we know what results when people follow blindly the pursuit of pleasure. Jesus never claimed that following him would be easy. He once said to Peter when many started leaving him and abandoning him. “Will you also go away?” Perhaps today Jesus is putting the same question to us. Hopefully our answer will be that of Peter – ‘Lord to whom shall we go. You have the message of eternal life and we believe that you are the Holy One of God’
‘Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, give us this conviction too. Amen’
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA