John 20:19-31, Divine Mercy Sunday
On my left wrist is a scar shaped like a J, what’s left of four stitches from when I was in third grade. I was carving soap for a project when I mindlessly slammed my arm down a carving tool. It cut my wrist open, bad enough for dad to rush me to Davao Doctors. My kid brother Jonathan was named after my J-scar. I was the bunso for 10 years, and then, middle child when Jon came along. The stakes were higher now. Kuya: family genius. Jon: family angel. Arnel: scarred for life!
Mom and dad were already in their 40s so they behaved more like grandparents to Jon. They were no longer the disciplinarians they once were with me and kuya. So, I felt I had to step up to the responsibility of parenting Jon. Oh, I was harsh on him, sisters and brothers. I was drill sergeant, tutor, mentor and tormentor. I yelled at him, spanked him, shut him up. I bet several of Jon’s emotional scars today were from cuts made by my severity. So, the scar on my wrist and the scars in Jon’s heart will always remind me that “if we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it.” That’s from a good Franciscan, Fr Richard Rohr, one of this century’s giants in spirituality. “If we do not transform our pain,” he says, “we will most assuredly transmit it.”
Jesus left Thomas deeply wounded. Thomas put his entire life in Jesus’ hands. The man had a sterling record: hundreds of healings to his name, many demons expelled, three dead people raised. But the guy didn’t even put up a fight with his captors. Now he was dead with nothing to show for it. How was Thomas to begin his life anew? He had abandoned everything for Jesus. Rumor had it lately that Jesus had risen from the dead. But, no. Not this time. Unless Thomas saw himwith his own eyes, and unless his flesh was duly torn open by driven nails, he wasn’t going to be strung along again. Not this time.
I’ve always been fascinated that Jesus’ wounds remained on his risen body. Oh, I’ve always believed Jesus’ resurrection was as very bodily as it was very spiritual. I believe the eyewitnesses saying that Jesus walked and talked, asked for food, ate, prepared breakfast for his friends by broiling fish. I believe he really greeted them with his typical “Shalom,” and really breathed on them, for which he had to draw in air, then exhale it as a blessing. With my heart and soul, I believe in the bodiliness of Jesus Risen.
But his wounds!? Why would Jesus’ wounds cross over along with his new Being? Who would want wounds on their glorified body, or the scars they leave?
For all I know, though, scars left by wounds we bore for great love, they might just make it to our Resurrection. When I was a kid, I asked mom one morning why she had a booboo below her navel. “D’yan kayo galing,” she said. “Caesarean kayo.” She might still have that scar, now that she’s in heaven; a memento of something mightily endured as she and dad took turns waking up at hours ungodly, to nurse us. Maybe Brother Richie Fernando still has that scar from his shrapnel wounds. He was prying that grenade from the hand of a Cambodian student running amok, when it came flying out of the scuffle, detonated, and killed Richie, and only him. A loving father’s scar from a heart operation…a soldier’s bullet wounds that bought time for villagers to run away…a scab on a little girl’s tiny foot, where a tetanus wound once festered after she scavenged through trash for a day’s treasure. Wounds borne out of selflessness, I mean; maybe these ones God will transform into keepsakes of great love when he raises us back to life. Do you have such a wound? On your body? In your heart?
We’ve heard it said, sisters and brothers, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. But sometimes, what doesn’t kill us makes us bitter, doesn’t it? Some of us harbor such wounds. They have made us resentful, vindictive, cold. We don’t want them healed because they give us potential energy against the people who cut us to the quick: our sumbat power, for one, our license to avenge, our permission to fire and demolish the enemy. I learned the hard way, thoughNursing a wound like that is like drinking poison but expecting the enemy to die. Meanwhile, as we transmit untransformed pain, we diminish a little each day, light in us dims, and someone we love grows weary of us. And we bite off the heads of the rest. Sometimes, a wound that doesn’t kill us, embitters us. We transmit pain when we refuse to transform.
I’ve apologized to Jon, twice through words, and a bit more often, in actions, and been forgiven. I believe one way of transforming our pain and the pain we bring upon people we love, is to ask for pardon and to be pardoned and to pardon, whichever comes first. For when Thomas cried, “My Lord and my God,” I don’t think he was only reaffirming newly resurrected faith in Jesus. I think he cried for forgiveness, having abandoned his Master to death. Pain mixed with joy ran so deep, Thomas could only call God’s name. “My Lord and my God.” I imagine that day when Jesus showed up to his friends. After the apologies, the pardons, the hugs, I see Jesus turn to Thomas. “Would you like to touch my wounds?” he says with a naughty smile. Thomas, still wiping off tears, laughs and says: “No, my Lord and my God. I’m…I’m good.” To which I imagine Jesus say, “Yes, you are, Thomas. Yes, you are.”