Father Donald Senior, CP

April 24: Second Sunday of Easter

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Wounds of the risen Jesus

Acts 5:12-16; Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Rev 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31

The Purple Heart award was invented by President George Washington to honor those soldiers wounded in service during the Revolutionary War. It later fell into disuse until World War II, when General Douglas MacArthur revived it as a recognition for any soldier wounded in the service of his or her country.

It holds unique prestige and its meaning needs little explanation. Anyone wounded for the sake of their country deserves thanks and praise.

Why mention the Purple Heart in this Second Sunday of Easter? Today’s reading from the Gospel of John provides the reason.

In one of the most memorable of Gospel scenes, the risen Jesus appears to his disciples who are huddled in fear behind locked doors. They are confused and disheartened because the Jesus they loved was crucified and buried.

They believe the source of their hope was snuffed out by a most brutal form of capital punishment.

But this Gospel scene of John proclaims the message of Easter all over again and in vivid terms. The risen Jesus breaks into the disciples’ abode of fear and brings a greeting of “peace.”

He offers not only a peace that quells their fear, but he “shows them his hands and his side.” The wounds are Jesus’ “purple heart” and much more. 

The wounds in his hands are from being nailed to the cross. The wound in Jesus’ side — uniquely noted in John’s Gospel — is from the thrust of the centurion’s spear to confirm his death.

What were intended as wounds of destruction and death on the part of Jesus’ enemies, become transformed into signs of ardent and unconditional love on the part of Jesus himself. This is a special emphasis of John’s Gospel. 

The crucifixion of Jesus is transformed from its meaning as an emphatic rejection of Jesus and his cause, to an unimpeachable sign of love. As John’s passion narrative begins, the evangelist notes that “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). 

Later, during his last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus would declare, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

John extends the drama by having Thomas, one of the Twelve, absent when the risen Jesus appeared. He refuses to accept their testimony: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 

A week later, the risen Jesus returns and offers the dumbfounded Thomas the proof he demands: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” 

This astounding invitation draws from Thomas one of the most profound expressions of faith in Jesus in all the Gospels: “My Lord and my God.”

The risen Jesus not only confirms his love for his disciples by showing them his wounds, but “breathes his Spirit on them” and “sends” them just as the Father sent Jesus. This is John’s unique way of commissioning the disciples to carry on the mission of revealing God’s saving love for the world that is the distinctive emphasis of John’s entire Gospel.

We see the impact of such love in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. All during this Easter season we will hear about this first dynamic Christian community in Jerusalem. 

Continuing the Spirit of Jesus’ own mission, the apostles radiate the power to heal. People surge toward them, even placing their sick on cots and mats so that the healing power of these first disciples of Jesus would touch them and heal them. 

Through Jesus’ wounds earned by extraordinary love, God’s healing power begins to stream out into the world. That is the Easter message we hear this Sunday. 

It comes as our world sees warfare rage in Ukraine and we hear almost daily reports of shootings in our own cities. What more eloquent testimony can there be to the truth and urgency of the Christian mission of peacemaking and reconciliation?



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