Gospel Meditation: 3rd Sunday of Easter

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk 24:35-48)

  1. LOOK TO MY HANDS AND MY FEET

Petition: Jesus, you invite us to contemplate your wounds, your hands and your feet; the signs of your love for us and the price you have paid to ransom us from the power of the evil one and sin. Give me the grace to persevere in contemplating your wounds of love, my Wounded Healer, so I may never doubt or hesitate about you or your love for me.

The Five Sacred Wounds are the physical signs of his love; the nail wounds on his hands and feet, as well as the lance wound that pierced his side, are the five bodily signs of what Jesus Christ suffered for love of us during his Crucifixion. Two of the wounds were through both of his hands, or his wrists, where nails were inserted to fix Jesus to the cross-beam of the cross on which he was crucified. Two wounds were through his feet, where the nail passed through both feet to fix him to the vertical beam. The final wound was on the right side of Jesus’ chest, where, according to the New Testament, his body was pierced by the lance of a Roman soldier in order to be sure that he was dead. The Gospel of John states that blood and water poured out of this wound (John 19:34). At that moment, the Source of Life and Love was opened for all who thirst and believe so they might come and drink.

The wounds of God are where we have been healed: “He was wounded for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Is 53:5). They are an evident symbol of his love; these precious and glorious marks of his love and suffering that he wanted to keep in his resurrected and glorified body so we would never doubt his love.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. (Is 49:15-16)

When we doubt, when we are troubled, or when questions arise in our hearts, Jesus invites us: “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself.” It is in gazing at his sacred wounds—the expression of his Passion, Cross and death—that his love for me is recalled in my heart. Only love is worthy of faith.

Do we have a crucifix at home? Do we carry a little cross hanging around our neck or inside our pocket, so that when we have troubles, doubts, or difficulties we can stare at his wounds or kiss them as a memorial of his love for us?

There is a prayer of Saint Alphonsus Liguori to the five wounds of Jesus that we can pray:

By all the wounds which You did bear with so much love and so much pain, Oh, let a sinner’s prayer Your mercy, Lord, obtain!

2. IT IS WRITTEN THAT THE CHRIST WILL SUFFER

Petition: We always try to deny the cross and any kind of suffering. But you, beloved Jesus, have come to teach us to carry our crosses every day. I beg you, good and sweet Jesus, that I may never deny you when the cross touches my life in any way.

As Christians, we are called to embrace suffering:

If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21)

Because accepting the crosses in our lives is the only way to always grow in love, whatever the situation or circumstances, and the only way to keep the love of God alive in our hearts.

We are called to endure and conquer the concrete and continual little (and sometimes big) sufferings, trials, annoyances, difficulties and pains that are a constitutive part of every human life.

Suffering enters every human life, this happens, as we know, at different moments in life, it takes place in different ways, it assumes different dimensions; nevertheless, in whatever form, suffering seems to be, and is, almost inseparable from man’s earthly existence. (Saint John Paul II, Salvific Suffering, 3)

We most battle suffering, but especially the suffering that comes from injustice, evil and sin. But we cannot despair.

It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.

The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another’s suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also.

Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.

To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves—these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself. (Benedict XVI, Spei Salvi, 36-39)

Do I embrace my trials? Do I teach my children to embrace their trials.

3. JESUS GAVE US A WAY TO TURN TO GOD’S LOVE

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was abused, he did not return abuse;

when he suffered, he did not threaten;

but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,

so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness;

by his wounds you have been healed.

For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25)