Father O’Connor’s Homily for April 19, 2015
Third Sunday of Easter-B
Acts of the Apostles 3: 13-15, 17-19
1 John 2: 1-5a
Luke 24: 35-48
The writer Leo Tolstoy told a story about the Czar and Czarina in Russia. They were having a banquet to honor all of the people who were servants in the palace. Those who were invited were instructed to arrive “with their invitations in their hands.”
When people arrived for the banquet they were surprised that the guards paid no attention to the invitations. They were simply looking at the guests’ hands.
People were also wondering who would have the great honor of being seated at the head table with the Czar and Czarina. To everyone’s surprise it was the woman who had been scrubbing the palace floors as long as anyone could remember.
The testimony of her loyalty and love for the Czar and Czarina was found in the condition of her hands.
In the Gospel today, Jesus, risen from the dead, appears to some of His disciples. And He says to them, “Peace be with you.” “But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” And what does Jesus tell them? “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see.” And He showed them His hands and His feet. And “they were still incredulous for joy.”
We see the loyalty and love and of Jesus for us in the nail marks in His hands and feet. And that is where He tells us to look.
But even in our day, some people are still incredulous. They are not quite sure that God could love them personally. They are more comfortable with an impersonal notion of God: the Creator, the Prime Mover, “the Man Upstairs.” But that the Son of God would have scars on His hands and feet as a testimony of His loyalty and love for us – well, sometimes people can be a bit incredulous about this.
There is a story about Moses Mendelssohn, the grandfather of the composer Felix Mendelssohn. Moses was born with a hunchback and was very conscious of the way that he looked.
One day on a visit to Hamburg he noticed the daughter of his business associate. She was very beautiful, but paid no attention to him. The day he was leaving Hamburg, he decided to make one more try.
As Moses entered the room where she was, her eyes dropped to the floor. And he said to her: “Do you believe that marriages are made in heaven?”
“I most certainly do,” she replied.
“I do too,” he said. “I believe that just before babies are born, God looks out and says, “’That boy and that girl are going to become husband and wife some day.’”
Moses went on to say, “When I heard God say that, God added for me: ‘Yes, and your wife is going to have a hunchback.’ So I told God that He should give me the hunchback and give her all the beauty.”
That beautiful young woman, the story goes, reached out her hand to Moses Mendelssohn and, sometime later, they were married.
This story illustrates what the Church has always taught: that the disfiguring wounds of Jesus should have been ours – for we are the sinners, not He. He died for us sinners. He took our place.
You might expect that when Jesus rose from the dead all of those wounds would be gone – no trace of Good Friday on Easter Sunday.
But the marks of Good Friday are still there, even in His glorified, risen body. And “by His wounds we are healed.” Our God has scars.
There was a woman who had been assaulted by a stranger in her own home. It was a devastating experience. Fortunately she had a very loving and supportive husband and family, and a very compassionate and capable counselor to help her through it. As a part of her care, she was encouraged to tell her story to someone outside of her circle of family and friends. And the person she selected was “Joe.”
One of her friends was very surprised by this choice and asked her: “Joe? Everyone knows that Joe was the town drunk for years. Why would you every want to tell your story to Joe?”
“Well,” she responded, “Joe is now a very grateful, recovering alcoholic. I selected Joe because I want to talk with someone who has been through hell, and has come back to life.”
Funny thing about our scars: sometimes they can enable us to bring healing and compassion to others.
To whom do you go when your heart is broken, or when you are in trouble, or when you are worried? To someone who seems to be preserved from all suffering? Or to someone who has been through it – maybe not in the same way, but who truly knows what it is to suffer. As Bishop Sheen used to say, “The best blessings in life come from scarred hands.”
Look at Jesus Himself – what comfort would there be for us if our God had no scars? But He says to the incredulous disciples: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see.”
You have scars, and so do I. Some may be very evident to other people, while others may be well-hidden. Jesus says to us: “Look at my hands and look at my feet. And see the testimony of my loyalty and love for you.
“And then go and do as I have done. Be ‘a wounded healer’ for someone else along the way.”
For even our God has scars.