The Risen Christ is Still Wounded

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy)/B; 4-8-18

Acts 4:32-35   Ps 118   1 Jn 5:1-6   Jn 20:19-31

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison; SJB

          The seven weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost constitutes the Easter season. While lest well known than Advent or Lent—people will give you strange looks when you say “Happy Easter” post-Easter Sunday—the Easter season is important because it gives us the time to absorb the significance and the experience of Jesus’ resurrection. And, by doing so, we reflect on the difference the Easter event makes in our own lives.

The first thing we have to deal with is that there is a difference between the pre-Easter and post-Easter presence of Jesus. Even though the doors were locked, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). The Resurrected Christ does not enter through doors, as people with physical bodies do. This strongly suggests that the disciples have a spiritual realization of Jesus. They come to know the Risen Christ not through the eyes of physical seeing (what St. Bonaventure would call the ‘Eye of the Body’) or through the eye of rational thought (“Eye of the Mind’), but we can “see” him through the “Eye of the Soul’—that is, through Faith.   So, the relationship we have with the Risen Christ is not bound by space and time. He is present to everyone and everything at any given moment.

The second problematic concern is that the Risen Christ is still the Wounded Jesus: “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v. 20).   Today, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we are called to contemplate, along with Thomas and the other disciples, the wounds of the Risen One, Divine Mercy, which overcomes our limitations and shines into the darkness of evil and sin. But, why is the Risen Lord still wounded?   He’s gone through his Passion and Death; why the wounds? He’s Resurrected; why can’t he appear without the signs of His ordeal?   What we have to deal with is that the glorified Christ puts his Resurrection and woundedness together. Jesus is glorified—he is at-one with His Father, yet, he is still wounded. Somehow his very woundedness is his glory.

The early Church Fathers of the Church had a sense of this when they had this image of Jesus as standing eternally in the heavens with the palms of his hands opened before the face of the Father. It became a symbol of what glory meant. It’s a symbol for humanity, who go into eternity still in our wounded, broken state. It’s this mystery the Medievals were working with when they saw imperfect men and women die. So, they came to the insight of ‘purgatory’ to solve the problem for themselves.

We see this image in the Risen Christ, who brings his woundedness, his humanity before the Father and that itself is his glory. Why? Jesus could trust that his Father would love him in his woundedness and precisely because of his woundedness. We, also, are one day going to come before the Lord, not in any sense unblemished or perfect, but in our wounded humanity.   Our final great act of trust is to believe, to hope, and to finally know that He can love us anyway—even in our imperfections and woundedness. That may be why He invited His doubting disciple to “Put your finger here, and see my hands…”

(Jn 21:27). In so doing, Thomas showed his own wounds, his own injuries, his own lacerations, his own humiliation. By placing his finger into the imprint of the nails, he found the decisive proof that he was loved, that he was expected to follow Jesus, that he was understood in his fraility and brokenness. How many of us are like Thomas, who are searching deep within our hearts to meet Jesus just as He is: kind, merciful, and tender. For we know that deep down that Jesus is just like the one Thomas encountered.

May we hopefully have the courage to hold our wounded humanity before his face and to let him love it because it is only his love that makes us whole, believable to ourselves.

My brothers, it’s not fire that will burn away our imperfection, but it is the gaze of God, the perfect gaze of the Father. Let the Father love you in and through his Son Jesus. Let his love burn away your sinfulness and woundedness. When the Father gazes upon you through the wounds of his Son, all he sees is his beloved son. Let him love you.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus Bursts Into Our Soul

Divine Mercy Sunday (A); April 23, 2017

Acts 2:42-47 Ps 118 1 Pt 1:3-9 Jn 20:19-31

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison

 

                        Today’s gospel begins “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked…” (Jn 20:1).   Why were they locked? The disciples were afraid. They were trying to protect themselves from what threatened their safety and security. They were clinging to the old ways of thinking and living that bolstered their fragile existence.

In Folsom Prison what would this Old Consciousness look like? One sees it on the yard everyday: men living out the same drama behind bars that got them into prison in the first place. It’s disguising their brokenness and vulnerability with a machismo that strives to project a strong, get-out-of-my-face bravado. It’s being haunted by past failures, bad decisions, uncertainties, and loss of freedom by drowning this pain with drugs, alcohol, pornography, and violence.

Right in the middle of that dysfunction Jesus appears. When does the Resurrected Christ appear to the fearful disciples? “On the evening of the first day of the week.” He appears in the midst of their darkness, when things seem so hopeless. And, he does so on the “first day of the week.” Brothers, the Risen Christ is bringing us a new creation. In Genesis on the first day of the week, God began to create heaven and earth. As Jesus is risen from the dead, there is a new creating, a new beginning. You are meant to be a new creation; you are meant to be reborn in the Resurrected Christ. There is no external obstacle that stands between you and Jesus’ invitation to the fullness of life. The only obstacle is internal. So, say “yes” to this opportunity, brothers, because there’s so much at stake: your very well being, your joy, your salvation.

But, why should we say “yes”? In John’s first letter, it is revealed that “God is love.” And, Jesus, the Word made Flesh, is the perfect incarnation of God’s love. The final act of Jesus’ earthly existence was to die to sin—our sins killed Jesus! But, that awful event is also a sign of hope because His Resurrection reveals to us that love is victorious and the risk of living a life of love is worth it. People of God at Folsom Prison know that Love is triumphant; that mercy of God is always victorious.    Gratefully receive his mercy; don’t turn Jesus, Love incarnate, (New) away.

Just as the Risen Jesus did in the Gospel reading, He can burst into the confines of our isolated, sinful, and fearful soul. Jesus wants to burst into your heart and soul because He loves you. He gave His life for you so that you may life NOW and FOREVER! As St. Augustine reminds us, if you are the only person on this earth, Jesus would have suffered and died for your salvation. Look at the crucified Christ: that’s how much God loves you. That’s our starting point. Open your heart to Jesus; let His Good News transform your mind and heart. What is this Good News? Jesus is Risen!—He has overcome sin and death. If God can wrest such ultimate triumph from the jaws of such apparent defeat on Good Friday, what might He do with your past bad decisions, current obsessions, and losses of your own life? Brothers, if God can overcome sin and death, can’t He transform our brokenness?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” because Jesus is risen. Do you get the implication of that fact? There is hope for you because you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! You can live new Life right here and now in Folsom Prison because Jesus is Risen and He dwells within and among us. We don’t have to wait to participate in His Resurrected life because it is abundantly available to us right here and now. We simply have to gratefully surrender to our Risen Lord and receive His Resurrected life.

What will it mean when we surrender to our Lord, Who is the Resurrection?   It means that the love of God will dwell within you and among your brothers and sisters, which is the Church. It means that his love is stronger than any evil and death that lurks within these prison walls. It means that the love of God can transform your lives and let those lonely desert places in your hearts blossom with joy and enthusiasm for the God who is present.

So, this is the invitation which has been extended to us by Jesus. Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection. Let us be renewed by divine mercy. Let us allow Jesus to love us, to enable the power of his love to transform our mind and heart. And, let us share with others what we have received in abundance. (Let us imitate the special call that Sr. Maria Faustina received when Jesus said to this simple, uneducated, young Polish nun: “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my My merciful Heart.” Let us become agents of this mercy; let us be channels which God can water the dry, cracked earth of Folsom Prison. Let us make justice and peace flourish. Let us proclaim and live that HE IS RISEN!

 

        

 

 

Jesus Bursts into our Soul

Divine Mercy Sunday (C); April 3, 2016

Acts 5:12-16 Ps 118 Rv 1:9-11,12-13,17-19 Jn 20:19-31

(New) Folsom Prison; Deacon Jim McFadden

 

            Jesus is Risen! What a joy to proclaim this wonderful message—one that is the ultimate “game changer”! The Resurrection is THE pivotal moment in all of Salvation History. Everything has changed; everything is relative to this event! Why? Sin and death have been transformed. And, we are given the promise of eternal life, which, incredibly begins here and now: as we abide in the Risen Jesus, we will experience “a joy that will never pass away.” Most fittingly, the Second Sunday of Easter is aptly named Divine Mercy Sunday because the Risen Jesus graciously extends the Life he shares with his Father to us: “Peace be with you” (Jn 29:19).

Again, everything is now different. We get that from the beginning of today’s Gospel, which states: “On the evening of that first day of the week” (Jn 20:19a). The first day of the week is Sunday, Resurrection Day! By saying that “the first day of the week” John is implying a new day of creation because in Genesis on the first day God began to create heaven and earth. As Jesus is risen from the dead, there is a new creating, there is a new beginning. And, brothers, you are part of that—you just have to receive the abundant Resurrected life that Jesus is offering you. Are you going to receive it? Are you going to say “Yes” to the Resurrected Jesus?! Are you going to become a new creation?

If we do say “yes,” we have to say, at the same time, “no” to our fears. Notice how the Gospel account unfolds: “…when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst…(v. 19b).   The disciples out of fear had locked themselves in the (upper) room. Is there anyone in this assembly who has not been afraid?   Usually we are afraid because we seem unable to control what is happening to us or what might happen to us. As a result, we lock ourselves in; we lock God out. How do we do that? When we call that which is good evil, and evil good. When we accept vice as normal and virtue as weird. When we accept the dominant culture of prison life and slip into the slippery slope of doing bad things, which gives rise to anguish and turmoil. Brothers, we lock ourselves into an interior prison when we separate ourselves from our Creator and Redeemer who loves us beyond measure. We rely instead on our ego—with its conniving projects, agendas, rationalizations, tricks and games—to control our lives. So, we’ve locked ourselves down in fear and see the world around us as a threat. Does that sound familiar?

Despite the locked doors, “Jesus came and stood in their midst…”

(v 19c). And, he stands in our midst today in C-facility because the risen Jesus transcends space and time; the risen Jesus can break through any obstacle, can overcome any barrier that we set up. He can burst into the confines of our isolated, sinful, fearful soul whether we want him to or not. That was the entire reason why He became man and suffered and died. We are redeemed and He will continue to relate to us.

Brothers, the risen Jesus wants to get into our hearts and into our minds. He wants to get into our body. He wants to get into our life and he will do it despite all the obstacles we set up for him. This is the work of amazing grace. It’s about grace; it’s not about what I do, but what God accomplishes in me despite my locked doors!

The decisive moment occurs when Jesus says what he always says, “Peace be with you” (v 19d). And, when he says this, he showed them his hands and his side. The two movements are inseparable.; they go together. The wounds of Jesus are the effects of our sin. It is important to realize that the Risen Jesus is still the wounded Jesus. In his glorified body the two have been put together. Jesus is glorified: he is at-one with his Father; yet, he is still wounded because we continue to sin against the Body of Christ, the Church. Somehow, his very woundedness is his glory. He carries his Crucifixion into his Resurrection.

Brothers, we see the Risen Christ bringing his wounds, his humanity to his Father and that itself is his glory. Jesus does this because he can trust that his Father would love him in his woundedness. And, just as the Father does that with his beloved Son, he does with you and in your brokedness and woundedness. One day, we are going to come before the Lord, not in any sense perfect, but still in your wounded humanity. Our final great act of trust is to believe, to hope, and to know finally that the Father loves us anyway. Indeed, through the prophet Zephaniah, God reveals that “he delights in us,” right here and now.

After showing his wounds, he says to them and to us, “Shalom,” which means peace. We say it up and down the liturgy: “Shalom, the Peace of the Lord be with you,” which confirms that God created us out of love and God’s love has never swayed, regardless of our sins that we commit in thought, word, and deed. This peace is the fruit of the victory of God’s love over evil; it is the fruit of forgiveness. And, receiving and sharing Jesus’ peace comes when we experience God’s mercy.

We are sinners, yes. But, much more importantly, we have been redeemed; we are forgiven sinners which means that any sin that we can possibly commit can be forgiven.

That’s why this return of Jesus is the great moment of the forgiveness of sins. That’s why the Church designates the 2nd Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy. This means redemption, and salvation is ours if we say “yes!”; if we claim and live our redemption. We have access to eternal life here and now!   Sinners, yes, but sinners who are embraced by his infinite mercy. This is our faith.

And, this is why Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v 21b). And, “When he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (vs 22-23). The forgiveness of sins that we receive from him, we now become the conduit for others. Brothers, Jesus has given you his peace so that you can spread the forgiveness of sins to the world of (New) Folsom prison, which so desperately needs to hear and receive this Good News. As the baptized People of God, we are the Church, which is sent by the Risen Christ to pass on to others the forgiveness of sins and thereby make his Kingdom of Love grow.

Brothers, the Spirit of the Risen Christ drove out fear from the Apostles hearts and impelled them to leave the Upper Room in order to spread the Gospel. He is doing the same with you. Let us have the courage in witnessing to our faith in the Risen Christ! You must not be afraid of being Christian in your cell, in the yard, on your job. We must not be afraid of living as Christians here and now. We must have this courage to go and proclaim the Risen Christ, for he is our peace.

We, the Church now have our Mission: to bring the whole world into the circle of divine love—to experience what the disciples experienced that night. The forgiveness of sins: that’s our job, that our purpose, and that’s our Mission– to be mediators of divine mercy. Amen.