I am writing this on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over these past few days there have been retrospectives and prayer services commemorating the occasion, often examining where we are now. The other day, here at St. Paul’s, we had our monthly “Share and Prayer” dialogue session, and our group is going through Jim Wallis’ book, America’s Original Sin, which is about racism in the U.S. So I confess that my reflection is influenced by all these things.
In our Gospel reading from John, we have the encounter between Jesus and the apostle Thomas, who, out of grief, could just not bring himself to believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. It is somewhat ironic, I think, to note that Thomas is only healed of his grief and doubt by touching the marks of Jesus’ wounds. Touching His wounds lets Thomas know that Jesus is real.
After reflecting on the divisions and violence not only in the U.S. but around the world, where, in some cases, the violence has escalated to near genocide, I wonder whether there is a pervasive doubt, not so much of God’s existence, or even of the Resurrection of Jesus, but of the humanity and dignity of those who are considered “other.” It is that doubt, or rather disbelief, that has enabled people to rationalize slavery, discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and genocide throughout the centuries. It is a doubt that seems to surface more when people grieve over what they have perceived to be in danger of losing when the status quo is seeming to change.
How can that kind of doubt be healed? It seems to me that what worked for Thomas may work with us as well. For us Christians, we need to touch the wounds of Jesus, and recognize not only His love for us, but for the entire world. And for all people of good will, perhaps we can take the risk, and touch the wounds of the “other;” to hear the stories of discrimination and alienation, of violence and poverty and hopelessness. Despite his doubts, Thomas did go to the upper room with the other apostles. Are we willing to go to where “they” are, and get in touch with how they are wounded?
As I was thinking about what I was going to write, I realized that I was not writing about joy and sunshine or some of the other things one would think should be written during the Easter season, especially during the Octave of Easter. It’s true, but for me, it is the hope of Easter that allows us the freedom to take the risks necessary to live the Gospel. The fact that Easter follows Good Friday can enable me, if I let it, to carry the crosses that may come when I am willing to enter into the woundedness of another human being.
Jesus entered our woundedness, and lifted it up when He rose from the dead! May the hope and joy of Easter empower us to lift each other up, to understand the wounds that come about when we dehumanize another, and to bring healing to a wounded and divided world.
In the Risen Christ,
Fr. Phil, CP