This stained-glass window of the Risen Jesus shows the wounds he endured during the Crucifixion. As Father Garry Koch says in his Gospel reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter, 'The wounds that Jesus bears in his Body will not be completely healed until he returns at the end of time.' CNS file photo
This stained-glass window of the Risen Jesus shows the wounds he endured during the Crucifixion. As Father Garry Koch says in his Gospel reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter, 'The wounds that Jesus bears in his Body will not be completely healed until he returns at the end of time.' CNS file photo
Gospel reflection for April 19, 2020, Second Sunday of Easter

Why does the resurrected Jesus, triumphant in all his glory, still bear in his Body the marks of the wounds of the Crucifixion? Do we not believe that when we share in the resurrection that our own glorified bodies will be free from the infirmities that we bore in this life?

The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter always presents the time of the appearance of Jesus to his disciples in the Upper Room both on the day of Resurrection and the following Sunday. One of them, Thomas, was not present on Easter day and boldly rejects to the testimony of the others with the objection that: “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, when Jesus again appears to them, he invites Thomas to: “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.”

The resurrected body of Christ is still wounded.

As the Church is perhaps best understood as the Body of Christ, of which each of us is a member, then the reality of those wounds being present makes perfect sense. The Church, from the very beginning, was wounded and filled with wounded people.

All of us are sinners. All of us have been hurt, to one degree or another, by the very Church which loves us and leads us along the path to salvation. We come to the Church with our own personal weakness and sinfulness. While we share in the Sacraments and actively participate in the life of the Church, we do so with those wounds intact, and often still impacting us along the way. For some, especially those who have been victimized by the Church in one form or another, those wounds are very real.

We are reminded that Jesus Christ suffered and died for us and that he takes our broken and wounded bodies with him as he rises from the dead and as he ascends to the Father. The wounds that Jesus bears in his Body will not be completely healed until he returns at the end of time. Until then, he continues to bear the marks of our sins, and certainly the wounds that we continue to afflict to the Church on his Body. It is a reminder to us of his mercy. It is a reminder to us of his love for us. It is a reminder to us that our sins affect not just ourselves, but the entire Body of Christ. The Church is wounded. Often the Church herself does the wounding.

This same wounded Jesus stood before his disciples, the very ones who abandoned and even denied him just a few days earlier and says: “Shalom:” “Peace be with you.” This expression, though typically used as a greeting runs much deeper than an ordinary “Hello.” It suggests a healing and a restoration. The first words that Jesus utters to his disciples on that Resurrection Day is restorative and consoling. In his most famous work, The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen writes: “’Did I offer peace today?’ ‘Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?’ ‘Did I say words of healing?’ ‘Did I forgive?’ ‘Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” As a result, we see this word from Jesus as more than a greeting, it is a commissioning to discipleship and ministry.

It is then that Jesus says further:  “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Forgiveness comes only when we first recognize that our need to be forgiven and our need to be forgiving are tied together and fully dependent upon Jesus to be accomplished.

The wounded Church, too, forgives those who sin, and those who are wounded are called to share in the very life of that same church. It is not easy. Jesus forgave from the Cross. The Church carries those wounds, in the hope that the wounds will be healed completely at the coming of the Kingdom.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.