Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. John 20:20
Today, the second Sunday after Easter, we celebrate what we have come to name, Divine Mercy Sunday. Our readings for this Mass continue to remind us how God’s Divine Mercy is a beautiful expression of God’s Divine Love. The reason why this is so meaningful and important for us is because all of us are in need of God’s Divine Mercy. We all have sinned. We all are in need of forgiveness and absolution.
For today’s reflection, let us focus on the first words and gesture that Jesus spoke and gave to his disciples in the upper room after he rose from the dead, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
These were very important words that he spoke and a very significant gesture that he gave. What he said was very much in character with the Jesus of Nazareth who forgave sins and welcomed sinners into his company.
And he offered this gesture as proof of his Resurrection.
Jesus carried the scars of the crucifixion on his body. The visible wounds of his torture and death on the cross would always be noticeable for all to see. Crucifixions during the time of Jesus were not rare. The Roman authorities would often leave the bodies hanging on a cross for days, visible for all those who would pass by. Crucifixion was not only meant to be a punishment and an execution, but also a reminder to all of who had the power over life and death in this society.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he choose to appear to his disciples and loved ones with the healed wounds of the crucifixion. This was the ways that Jesus had of telling his disciples that the Jesus of Nazareth had truly risen from the dead. His scars was a reminder of the consequences of our sins.
Later, St. Peter would say in his second letter, He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. In this way, Jesus shows us what forgiveness of sins looks like.
Every time we are tempted to believe that the Risen Lord is not alive and unable to forgive our sins, then he invites us to do what he invited Thomas to do, stick our fingers into the holes where the nails were driven and our hands into his pierced side. The Resurrection had healed them completely.
While many of us seek forgiveness, we still struggle with offering forgiveness to others. One of the many questions that we priests are asked is about our unhealed wounds we carry with us in life. Our sins leave many scars. The way that we know that we have been completely honest with ourselves, that we are contrite and remorseful of our sins, is if the scars that those sins left behind are truly healed. The more that we reflect upon the healed scars of the Risen Jesus, the more we are challenged to forgive as Jesus has forgiven us. When we are able to touch the healed scars that resulted from our sins and there is no more bitterness or rancor, then we know the Risen Jesus is alive. We will know true peace and true communion with God and with one another. We will know God’s Divine Mercy. Alleluia!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P., is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.