Praised be Jesus Christ! The following is a story that seems appropriate as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday: “There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper. His father decided to hand him a bag of nails and said that every time the boy lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the fence. On the first day, the boy hammered 37 nails into that fence. The boy gradually began to control his temper over the next few weeks, and the number of nails he was hammering into the fence slowly decreased. He discovered it was easier to control his temper than to hammer so many nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father the news and the father suggested that the boy should now pull out a nail every day he kept his temper under control. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. ‘You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. . the wound is still there.’” As we hear the story of Jesus’ empty tomb, we remember that though He defied death, He mysteriously retained His wounds. Saint Thomas was famously convinced of the resurrection only when he put his finger into Jesus’ nail marks and his hand into Jesus’ side. Why would Jesus, who now had a body no longer subject to such things as gravity or hunger, nevertheless retain the marks of His crucifixion? Was it to remind us of our guilt? We might wonder this, especially as we’re still somewhat inclined to imagine God as the great enforcer who is seemingly always out to catch us doing something bad. Just like Adam and Eve, sin makes us suspicious and afraid of our Creator and we too often seek freedom in dark places as we distance ourselves from God. Pope Francis’ response a number of years ago succinctly captures Jesus’ motivation for appearing as He did after rising from the dead: “Jesus kept His wounds so that we would experience His mercy. This is our strength and our hope.” Jesus keeps His wounds so that we can find refuge and strength in Him when we’re struggling with the many sorrows of this life. Unlike any other religion in the world, Christianity proclaims and worships a God who not only became one of us; He actually suffered in the ways that we do and so His capacity for empathy is unparalleled. When we experience rejection, betrayal, or malice, Jesus knows these well from His last days in Jerusalem. If it’s ingratitude or misunderstanding, many are the occasions when Jesus bore these patiently. I’m reminded of a story about a young associate who was very popular in his parish assignment (I’m not kidding now). However, when a prominent parishioner died suddenly, the family asked for the old pastor... the young priest felt hurt until someone explained that it wasn’t anything personal. It was just that the old pastor had obviously suffered more in his life than the young priest and it was his compassion and the wisdom that he had gained at the foot of the cross that they needed. Say what you will about Christianity, but one thing no one can claim is that Jesus doesn’t understand how hard life can be down here. He knows. In closing, the Irish tell the legend of a man who died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Before granting him admittance, Saint Peter asked to see the man’s scars. The man looked confused at first, and then admitted to not having any scars. To which Saint Peter exclaimed, “You mean to tell me that there wasn’t anything worth fighting for down there!” Suffering, the mark of one who loves – that’s why Jesus retains His wounds today and forever.
May God lead us into His Son’s heart, which was pierced by a sword so that we might be washed clean by His mercy!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin