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The Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 34:30)

     There is something rather ironic – maybe even deeply ironic - in Peter’s address to the people that we just heard in the reading from Acts. Listen again to what Peter says: “The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when Pilate had decided to release him. You denied the holy and righteous one…the author of life you put to death.”

     The irony, of course, lies in Peter’s use of the word “deny.” (“You denied Jesus in Pilate’s presence.” “You denied the holy and righteous one.”) This from the one who not once, not twice, but three times categorically denied – with an oath, no less – that he so much as knew Jesus! Could Peter have been aware of the irony? I’m guessing not. So consumed was he – so on fire – with his experience of the risen Lord that he could think of nothing else. For Peter, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead changed everything. It turned him, a fearful denier, a craven coward - afraid of his own shadow and frightened out of his wits by a young servant girl - turned him into a fiery, passionate, outspoken witness to the Master whom he had three times disowned. Quite a makeover! Quite a transformation!

     So, my friends, I have a question for you this morning: what has the Resurrection, what has the celebration of Easter done for you? I have to ask myself the same question. Has it changed us in any way? Changed our outlook, our attitude? Made us any more hopeful, more joyful, more loving, more fired up about our faith? Or, as Easter begins to fade and the flowers begin to wilt, have we pretty much returned to ‘business as usual’?

     Now, granted, our Easter experience is not the same as that of Peter and the other disciples. We haven’t actually seen the Risen Lord with our own eyes, heard him with our own ears, touched him, or sat at table with him – but we have had opportunities to come to know and love him, thanks to the witness of Peter and of others that has come to us in the gospels, and thanks to the living witness of the Church – of faith-filled women and men down through the centuries. And we have also come to know him in the sacramental life of the Church – especially at moments like this when we gather as a community to break the Bread of the Eucharist in his name.

     So, we, too are witnesses of the Resurrection. We have a story to share, Good News to tell, a gospel to proclaim and, more importantly, to live!

     But, as today’s gospel reminds us, the Christ we witness to had first to suffer and die before his Father could raise him up and make him the source of life and healing grace that he is. And that brings us to the wounds of Jesus that figured so prominently in today’s gospel reading - much as they did in last week’s story of doubting Thomas. The gospel writer tells us very clearly that when Jesus appeared to his disciples he showed them his hands and his feet. Why? Well, because those hands and feet still bore the marks of his cruel suffering and death - except that they were no longer the hideous wounds of Calvary, they were now marks of glory, trophies of victory.

     My friends in Christ, it cannot have been an accident that the risen Christ continued to carry those wounds in his glorious risen body. But why was it? Could it have been to tell us that the only way we can have a genuine relationship with him is if we come to know – and, yes, in some way to experience - what he suffered for us? I think so. We need to touch those wounds. We do. And then there are our own wounds - our sins and failings, our weaknesses and compromises, as well as the things that have happened to us along our journey of life: an addiction we’ve had to struggle with, the debilitating illness of a spouse, the divorce we went through, the child we had to bury, the destructive relationship we put up with far too long – those are wounds we carry with us always, but we find healing for them when we reach out to the risen Christ, touch his wounds, and allow him to touch ours. He can transform our wounds, no matter how crushing or painful, into trophies of victory, marks of glory, like his own!

     And there is more. Just as the wounds of Christ have power to heal, our wounds, too, have that power. They can become a source of healing for others. This was certainly true for some of the great saints whose very wounds God used to bring healing and hope to others. I think of St. Paul, the passionate persecutor before he ever became the passionate apostle; and of St. Augustine, a serious sinner before he ever became a serious saint; and of St. Francis who frittered away some pretty frivolous and even decadent years before he ever became ‘the poor man of Assisi;’ and I think, in our own time, of Mother Teresa who carried throughout most of her life the wound of feeling that God was darkly distant from her but who, despite that - or maybe even because of that - was able to be the warmly compassionate healer she was.    In each case, it was the very wounds of these saints that, with God’s grace, became the source of healing for others.

      My friends, in this and every Eucharist we not only receive the risen Christ, we also touch his wounds and he touches ours so that, no matter how deep our wounds, we can go out and be healers for others.

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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