John 20:19-31, Divine Mercy Sunday
Today’s readings and Gospel are about peace. Peace is not easy to come by nowadays. I am thinking of families that are suffering from hard misunderstanding, deep feuds, or have, in time, drifted far apart from each other. In my mind are couples who had relied on a relatively stable work schedule and active social network as part of their therapy in maintaining the required intimacy, for the sake of their children, or to save what remained of their relationship. Remove work and you have exposed relationships that are hurt, listless, or to an extent, abusive. In this long period of forced isolation, we can grow weary and even scared of people with whom we share common space, state of affairs, and belongingness. Quarantined, we have very few options for escape. Peace is a fragile condition nowadays. It is also an ambitious goal in a period where we unexpectedly have time on our hands (plenty of it!) to face each other honestly and try to fix what is wounded and wrong with ourselves and the ones we love. Peace is never easy.
Peace be with you! In a locked room filled with disciples, who were supposed to trust each other but were cocooned in their own sceptical fears, the Risen Lord appears. His first gift is peace. Peace is not construed as an end-goal or a preferred state of affairs. It strikes me as a deep and gentle calm that comes from the hands of someone who knows what it means to be damaged goods. I sometimes think of the Lord’s peace as a balm. It does not vanish the wounds away but it soothes and caresses them—a potent relief. A first aid. For us, who have been forced to hide, feeling our raw wounds, we need some form of a relief—a first aid. The Lord appears in the room, armed with peace, and relieves our hurt selves. This, I think, is the first and necessary step towards healing: entrusting ourselves to others who are willing to take care of us. If someone has to get in and lead us out of our cocoon of suffering, it would be a wounded God who desires to nurse us and does it gently.
But peace is not enough. The Lord also gives his spirit. He does it by breathing on us. God’s breath goes far back before time. By his breath, creation happened. Something good came out of nothing. Thousands of years later, this breath from a crucified God filled a room full of people who were desperate and afraid. This time, it brought forgiveness and plenty of it. Some of the wounds we keep that make us desperate and afraid can only be remedied by the therapy of forgiveness. I understand forgiveness here to be different from the balm of peace. In peace, we are beneficiaries but in forgiveness, we are asked to be agents—to hold out our hands to give. A donation that comes from the deep pockets of the nothingness of our wounds and the gift of our own healing. Something good that is expressed in our willingness to work things out again. With less resentment. We progress, step by step, by every forgiveness we can spare. Forgive. Beginning with ourselves and then others.
Healing, they say, is a process. It takes time, consistency, and guts. It demands much from ourselves and others. We have our own stages of healing but we share its fundamental elements. Part of them is the choice to go beyond our wounds in order to let others take care of us. It also includes letting go of what distracts and disables us from forgiving ourselves and those who are close to us, those who also wounded and sometimes very difficult to love. These are intimidating, even scary, first steps. But we do not need to stay far too long in the cocoon, suffering. The Risen Lord appears and gives us his peace. Let us take it. Allow Him to nurse us, enough for us to ask help. Let His breath fill the room and move us to forgive, beginning with ourselves. Let His gentle hand lead us out from our hurt isolation and move us to apply the balm of peace to our scarred relationships, with less resentment. One step at a time. One day at a time.
*image from the Internet