A few weeks ago, Christians celebrated the most important feast of the year with Easter Sunday.
In a nutshell, it is the belief that Jesus Christ revealed who he truly is: the Son of God who has power over death, humanity’s greatest fear.
But more than that, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead has unleashed the unfathomable ocean of God’s infinite mercy. Jesus came into the world, not to simply show us the way to God, but to suffer with each of us and as we gaze upon his suffering, his wounds, they become the instrument through which we are freed from the hopelessness often time brought on as a result of our own suffering.
Contemplating his wounds allows our suffering to be washed in God’s mercy.
This is put on vivid display in the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, which takes us to the upper room, where we hear Jesus’ disciples, the eleven remaining Apostles, are behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.”
Think of the suffering these disciples are going through: not only are they fearful that they will suffer the same fate as Jesus, death, but they are also wracked with shame and guilt because they know they abandoned Jesus in his time of great need.
Their fear is both external and internal. Not only are they physically locked in a room, but they are psychologically and spiritually locked in on themselves, and are filled with great fear and anxiety.
Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says “Peace be with you.” As the disciples gaze upon the wounds of Christ — his hands and his side — the Gospel tells us that they “rejoice,” which means they are no longer imprisoned by their fear, guilt and shame; their anguish becomes one with the wounds of Jesus and they are freed; their wounded hearts are united with his wounds in his hands and side, and they are overwhelmed by the mercy of God.
In a deeper and more beautiful way, Jesus gets behind the locked doors of their hearts and unselfishly sets them free. He does not hold on to any resentment he could have as a result of the injustice they committed against him; rather, he is only interested in freeing them from their heavy load of remorse. They still had to face the difficulties of life, but their conscience and their hearts are now liberated.
We must not think of those disciples as being the only ones whose wounded hearts are touched by the wounded heart of the Savior.
The Lord comes and stands in our midst today. He gets behind the locked doors we put over our wounded hearts and intimately connects his wounded heart with our’s. When we allow the Lord to connect with us at this deep level, like the disciples, we rejoice as we realize that despite the many times we have turned away from the Lord, despite the many times we cling to resentment toward others, despite the many times we have been deeply hurt and wounded in our lives because of people, situations and our own selfishness, Jesus meets us in that place of darkness and floods our hearts with his mercy and forgiveness.
If you find your heart in a place of fear and anxiety, in a place of shame or guilt, allow the Lord to enter behind the locked doors of your heart and allow his wounded heart to touch the deepest pain of your wounded heart.
Gaze on his hands and his side and feel that ocean of mercy touch your wounds and experience the peace of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Allow the Lord to say directly to you: “Peace be with you.” And give him the permission to heal you and send you out into the world as a healing agent to others most in need of that same mercy.
The Rev. CHRIS DOWNEY is pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Killeen.