From the side of Christ

Today we celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Easter, now celebrated in the Church as Divine Mercy Sunday.  The readings for the feastday, beginning with the Opening Prayer, encourage us to cast our focus on the redeeming “blood”, the washing away of sins in “water”, a new birth in the Spirit, the institution of Confession, and the importance of trusting in Jesus. God always wants to give us the fullness of his graces and his mercy, He never holds back.

"Jesus Christ, in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance." (Second Reading).

In my reflection of the Gospel today, three different biblical events come to mind. They all have something in common. The story of grace of how our Creator Father can bring life from the side of Christ, be it the first man, Adam, to his Son Jesus, the new Adam.

In one of the creation narratives in the Book of Genesis  (Gen 2:18-24), we are told that God fashioned woman from the side of Adam, that is, taking a rib from him. God creates woman to be alongside man and here we see the beauty of complimentarity and its vision in the plan of salvation. Eve compliments and completes man. We remember that Mary, the Mother of Jesus is the new Eve. The Old  Testament is continuously  being fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus Christ.

On the Cross, as Jesus died, his sacred side was pierced by a lance. From there, blood and water gushed forth. The Church is born from the wounded side of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, explained the reason for which Blessed John Paul II desired to call this Sunday after Easter “Divine Mercy Sunday”. He writes: "He ( John Paul II) had this icon in mind: that of the pierced side of Christ, from which flow blood and water. But now Christ is risen, and from the Living Christ spring the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist: those who approach them with faith receive the gift of eternal life. In the Diary of Divine Mercy, in the revelations to St. Faustina, Jesus tells her that the two rays in the Divine Mercy image denote the Blood (the Eucharist) which is the life of souls, and the Water (Baptism) that makes souls righteous."

In the Gospel today, Jesus invites Thomas to put his hand into his pierced side. He cannot believe without seeing that the Lord is truly Risen.
It is told that St. Teresa of Avila received a vision of 'the Risen Jesus' but his words brought her deep desolation and not consolation. She soon realised that Jesus did not have the wounds and that it was in fact the devil. The devil could not replicate the wounds because those wounds are wounds of love. Wounds received from the harsh reality of the Cross and crucifixion. On the night of the Easter Vigil, the priest makes 5 indents in the Paschal candles so as to place the five large grains , symbolic of the five wounds of Christ. They are encased by the words Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End and the current year. This Paschal candle bears the light that breaks the darkness, which marks the passage from Lent to Easter. Then as the light floods through the darkened Church, each one of us has our candle lit from the Paschal candle, candles which we hold later in the liturgy as we renew our baptismal promises as children of God.

The wounds then are the victory scars of life over death.  Leonard Cohen had an interesting quote: “Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as a secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.”  How true this is! In the pierced side of Christ, Christ the Living Word is flesh. Our deepest wounds surround our greatest gifts, paradoxical as this seems. Sin, which makes the deepest wound in the world, surrounds the greatest gift of the unconditional love of the Father who send his Son, the unconditional love of the Son who goes to the Cross for love of us, and the unconditional love of the Spirit who is that breath of peace which Jesus offers to his disciples on the Resurrection day and on the eighth day.

Today as we celebrated the liturgy of Divine Mercy Sunday, our celebrant Father Eamonn, SAC, left us with a beautiful reflection entitled: "I kiss the wounds". Living in joy of the Resurrection and being an Easter people, he changed one word 'sorrow' to 'reverence'.  I hope it touches you as it touched me.

I kiss the Wounds
I kiss the Wounds of Your Sacred Head,
with reverence deep and true,
may every thought of my mind today
be an act of love for You.
I kiss the Wounds of Your Sacred Feet,
with reverence deep and true,
may every step I take today
be an act of love for You.
I kiss the Wounds of Your Sacred Hands,
with reverence deep and true,
may every touch of my hands today
be an act of love for You.
I kiss the Wound of Your Sacred Shoulder,
with reverence deep and true,
may every cross I bear today
be an act of love for You.
I kiss the Wounds of Your Sacred Heart,
with reverence deep and true,
may every beat of my heart today
be an act of love for You.