1st Reading: Acts 5:12-16; Psalm: 118. R. v. 1; 2nd Reading: Rev 1:9-11a. 12-13. 17-19; Gospel: Jn 20:19-31
THE SCARS OF LOVE AND MERCY
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
On the 10th of December 2005, a Sosoliso domestic passenger flight was scheduled to fly from the Nigerian capital Abuja to Port Harcourt, the southern part of the country. The ill fated plane carrying 110 passengers took off successfully from Abuja but crash-landed at Port Harcourt international airport leaving only two survivors. One of these survivors, Kechi Okwuchi by name sustained a third degree burnt over 65% of her body. After about one hundred and twenty surgeries and reconstructive surgeries on her body and face, she was able to recover from the accident but not without an appearance marred by scars.
Today, Kechi has become a motivational speaker, a musician and a writer; an occupation borne out of the aftermath of the plane crash incident. In one of her interviews, she said: “Now that I have had all these experiences of travelling and speaking in so many places and to so many different kinds of audiences, I meet people and know we are in a world that needs more of that kind of message where people realise that their scars invisible or visible do not define them; their trauma doesn’t define them. My burnt scars do not define me. They are definitely a big part of me, a big part of my story and my identity, but they are not everything.”
Scars are permanent marks resulting from injuries. They can trigger memories of some past hurtful experiences. We can then begin to wonder why Jesus would choose to resurrect with the scars of nails in his hands and feet. Even the scar of the spear by his side was wide enough to take the finger of the doubting Thomas. We know that Jesus resurrected with a glorified body. But why with the scars of the nails and spear? Why would the Son of God leave a scar on his body that would remind him of the gruesome and painful way he was murdered? He could have chosen to resurrect without these scars. Why did he decide otherwise?
When he appeared to his apostles behind closed doors, he said to them “Peace be with you.” The next thing he did after this was to show them his hands and side. This gesture was really not to remind them of his suffering, but to prove to them that he overcame the incident of the cross: the pain, the agony, the disgrace, and his death resulting from the torture of the nails in his hands and feet. It was to prove to them his victory over the past. So the wounds of Jesus are actually signs of victory and healing. For by his wounds we are healed (Is 53:5).
Isn’t it interesting to know that God’s healing mercy came from his wounds? Jesus brought out something beautiful and precious from his wounds. By his wounds, we were healed. By his wound, Thomas came to faith. And by his wound, the Church was born.
Are we wondering how the Church was born from the wound of Christ? Remember that remarkable moment on the cross when Jesus was pierced by the side. Blood and water gushed out. The water symbolised our baptism while the blood symbolised the Eucharist. Jesus said to Nicodemus “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5). The Church that comprises you and I is a sign of God’s kingdom here on earth. And we cannot become a member unless through baptism which imparts on us the Holy Spirit, a sign of God’s possession over us.
As members of the Church which we became through baptism, we are constantly fed with the Eucharist, the bread of eternal life. This Eucharist is symbolised by the blood that gushed forth from the side of Christ. And we know that we cannot separate the body and blood of Christ which is one and the same. What a beautiful thing for Jesus to form and at the same time feed his Church from his wounds. He did not leave us to suffer hunger.
So through the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus, the Church came to birth and the food for her spiritual nourishment was gifted as well. Jesus did this from his wounds. Just as he fashioned Eve from the side of Adam while Adam was asleep, so did he fashion the Church from his side as he slept in death. Little wonder the Church is called the bride of Christ; a divine marriage that cannot be dissolved.
Can we see how God saved us and gave birth to the Church from his wounds? Isn’t it amazing that God dispenses mercy, love, forgiveness, purification and salvation, all from his wounds? God has turned pain to sweetness, hurt to healing, sadness to joy, despair to hope, hate to love, and doom to salvation. He did all these through his wounds. So in the wounds of Christ, God’s love and mercy for us was perfected. This is what we remember on this day we celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday.
On the 5th day of May year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday as requested by our Lord through St Maria Faustina. The message of Mercy which Christ revealed to St Faustina can be summarised by simply remembering the first three letters of the English alphabets: A, B, and C. This is what they stand for. A: Ask for God’s mercy. B: Be merciful to others. And C: Confidence and complete trust in God. This message simply means that as members of the Church of Christ who have complete trust in God, we should learn from the mercy of God and show mercy to others.
So, how many of us have some scars on us, be it physical or emotional? Physical scars like the ones we carry on our bodies resulting from some unforeseen accidents or the ones inflicted on us willingly by someone we have come to hate. Do we carry emotional scars? The ones caused by the betrayal of a trusted friend, by disappointment, heartbreak, divorce, infidelity, false accusation, and denial. These scars when remembered can elicit deep anger and unforgiving spirit. As for that scar that has disfigured our appearance or disabled us, it can come with a feeling of self hatred and anger towards God because we feel God ought to have prevented the accident but did not. Perhaps we can just pause for a minute and reflect again. What if we learn from the wounds of Jesus? The wound that dispenses mercy, forgiveness and love.
Those scars on us whether physical or emotional would have been worse were it not for God. It would have been worse even if we tried preventing them. It would have claimed our lives but that didn’t happen. Be grateful for this. Let us see in our scars our victory over our past and make out a beautiful lesson from it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Let us learn from Jesus and be merciful to ourselves, to others and to our past. Were it not for God, our situations would have been worse. Think of this and heal from the hurts of the past.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Merciful Jesus, make us ambassadors of your love and mercy. Amen