“SHOWING OFF MY WOUNDS” (Jn 20:19-31): 30 March 2008 (Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday)

“SHOWING OFF MY WOUNDS” (Jn 20:19-31):  30 March 2008 (Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday)

Today’s Readings

According to statistics, 11.5 million cosmetic procedures were done in 2006 in the United States alone.  Over 3 million received Botox treatments.  Almost 1.5 million underwent laser hair removal.  And  there were approximately 400,000 patients for liposuction and another 400,000 for breast augmentation.

Thanks to today’s advanced medical technology and an outrageously beauty-conscious culture, more and more men and women are going for cosmetic procedures.  An ad for the metrosexual lifestyle may as well go:  “Got a problem with a body part? Just fix it!”

That’s why there’s something very wrong with today’s Gospel scene. When most of us would prefer to hide our smallest blemish, the Risen Lord shows off his wounds!  And it gets worse when you realize that the Lord’s resurrection actually gives him a once-in-a-lifetime chance to exchange his old body for a brand new one, but what does he do?  He chooses to keep his wounds!

I don’t know about you, but doesn’t that’s really crazy, isn’t it?  If I were going to rise from the dead and get a brand new body in the process, why keep the wounds?  Some of us here can’t even wait for our resurrection to fix our faces and bodies.  The slightest scar, the slightest mark, the slightest pimple–all this has to go asap, never mind how much.

But mind you, when we talk about the Risen Lord, we aren’t even just talking about scars or marks, much less pimples.  Remember what Thomas said:  “I will never believe (that he has risen) without putting my finger in the nailmarks and my hand into his side.”  It’s even more graphic in Filipino:  “…hangga’t hindi ko isinusuot ang mga daliri ko sa kanyang mga sugat…”  Putting the finger and hand into the wounds?

Looks like these aren’t just scars that we’re talking about—we’re talking about open, gaping wounds here.  For some strange mysterious and mystifying reason, the Risen Lord, even after transforming his earthly body into a risen body, has chosen to retain the wounds he got from the cross—and to keep them fresh and open.  In fact, to this day, the Risen Christ continues to bear these open gaping wounds in his body.

So the question is:  “Why?”  Why keep the wounds if you can have a totally brand new risen body?

I think we can get a clue from soldiers who have had their share of battles and bear scars from battles in their bodies.  It is not a rare practice for these soldiers to show their scars to friends and to people, if only to prove their heroism and love of country.

Perhaps in the same way, our Lord considers his wounds as marks of his heroism and great love for us, the love that made him end up on the cross.  Maybe every time we think of him, he wants us never to forget his love for us.

Also, soldiers sometimes examine their wounds themselves to remember their experiences and to remind themselves of what they have been through.  Some soldiers have several wounds received from several battles, and they almost have names for every single wound in their body.

Maybe our Lord is also like that.  When he examines the wounds that he continues to bear in his risen body, maybe he is also reading the names of the people for whom he suffered those wounds.  He reads our names, yours and mine, in every wound that he has received in his suffering and death.

When we think about it, we aren’t too different from the Lord when we love.  When we love, we make ourselves vulnerable and often get wounded in the process.  There seems to be no way of getting around that, at least not in this imperfect world of ours.  Interestingly, the Chinese term for “love”—in Hokkien “tia” and in Mandarin “teng”—sounds like “pain,” and that doesn’t seem to be any accident.  When we love, we almost always have to suffer too.  And the reason for this is that when we love, we allow ourselves to be affected by the person we love.   If something not-so-good happens to a dear friend, if our child has a problem, we get hurt and we suffer because we love them.  Or, if the person we love happens to be a klutz—or worse, a bastard—expect your heart to be broken and battered.

But the important thing is to love even if we get hurt.  Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we should become masochists and let people we love step all over us.  That’s a totally different story.  I’m not talking about the neurotic codependencies that some of us are sometimes suffer from, where we claim that we’re suffering out of love when in fact we’re only doing it out of a neurotic need.

I’m talking about loving in the real sense—wanting and working for what’s best and what’s right for the person we love—and accepting the pain that goes with that.  And often this might mean being tough even if we prefer to give in, saying “no” to the person we love even if he or she would be more pleased with us if we said “yes.”  Sometimes this is more difficult, isn’t it?  And the wounds we get when we do this are deeper and more painful.

That’s the kind of loving that Christ did:  He didn’t insist on giving in to his enemies just to get their love.  He stood his ground because he loved the people so much all he wanted for them was what was right.  That’s why he ended up with wounds, on the cross.

At the end of our lives, our Lord will ask us only one question:  “How have you loved?”  And we will answer not through words but only in silence.  In silence we shall open our hearts full of wounds, and each wound will have a name.

(image:  Caravaggio)

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EASTER 1998 (Jn 20:1-9): 23 March 2008 (Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord)

EASTER 1998 (Jn 20:1-9):  23 March 2008 (Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord)

Today’s Readings

When you think about it, there are many things that aren’t quite right with the Gospel story we just read.  First of all, the tomb wasn’t supposed to be empty:  Just three days ago, on the eve of the Sabbath, the corpse of a man, executed like a common criminal, was hurriedly buried there.  And precisely to prevent the body from being stolen, the authorities had installed guards to stand by the heavy stone that sealed the tomb.   Continue reading EASTER 1998 (Jn 20:1-9): 23 March 2008 (Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord)

“DO I ROLL AWAY THE STONE YET?”: 22 March 2008 (Black Saturday)

“DO I ROLL AWAY THE STONE YET?”:  22 March 2008 (Black Saturday)

Note:  The prescribed readings for today are already for the Easter Vigil tonight.  I’d like to share some thoughts about Black Saturday.

This painting–one of my favorites–shows John and Peter running towards the Lord’s tomb. They’ve just received word from the women who report that the Lord’s tomb is empty. We read in their faces a mixture of excitement and fear:  Has the body been taken away?  Or could it be…? Continue reading “DO I ROLL AWAY THE STONE YET?”: 22 March 2008 (Black Saturday)

“MUST WE GO ALL THE WAY?” (Jn 18:1-19:42): 21 March 2008 (Good Friday)

“MUST WE GO ALL THE WAY?” (Jn 18:1-19:42):  21 March 2008 (Good Friday)

Today’s Readings

There is a little-known but beautiful song from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  The song is found near the end of the play:  Jesus has just been taken to Herod, and as he is being led away back to Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter appear out of nowhere to sing this song to him.  The song expresses the disciples’ bewilderment at the unexpected turn of events.  Things weren’t supposed to go wrong!  And together with the other followers of Jesus, they express a plea to him:  Let’s start over! Continue reading “MUST WE GO ALL THE WAY?” (Jn 18:1-19:42): 21 March 2008 (Good Friday)

“WHY SHOULD I LET YOU WASH MY FEET?” (Jn 13:1-15): 20 March 2008 (Holy Thursday)

“WHY SHOULD I LET YOU WASH MY FEET?” (Jn 13:1-15):  20 March 2008 (Holy Thursday)

Today’s Readings

It’s an unforgettable scene:  After supper, our Lord himself rises from the table and–to the horror of his disciples–washes their feet.  All are stunned speechless with, as usual, the exception of Peter.

Peter protests.  “You shall never wash my feet!” he declares–only to take it back almost in the same breath and to beg the Lord to wash his entire self (“Not only my feet, but also my hands and head!”) when he realizes the consequences of refusing the Lord. Continue reading “WHY SHOULD I LET YOU WASH MY FEET?” (Jn 13:1-15): 20 March 2008 (Holy Thursday)

“IS IT I, LORD?” (Mt 26:14-25): 19 March 2008 (Holy Wednesday)

“IS IT I, LORD?” (Mt 26:14-25):  19 March 2008 (Holy Wednesday)

Today’s Readings

I haven’t seen the movie, but I read Khaled Hosseini’s first novel The Kite Runnersometime last year. Set in Afghanistan, the story revolves around two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan.  Hassan is the son of the servant of Amir’s father, and is his loyal kite runner–the one who runs to fetch the kites that Amir defeats in the  game of kite-fighting.  To avoid spoiling the novel or the movie, all I will say is that Amir ends up betraying his friend, and for many years, long after he has moved to a faraway country, he is haunted by the memory of his treacherous act. Continue reading “IS IT I, LORD?” (Mt 26:14-25): 19 March 2008 (Holy Wednesday)

“HOW DO I FOLLOW YOU?” (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38): 18 March 2008 (Holy Tuesday)

“HOW DO I FOLLOW YOU?” (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38):  18 March 2008 (Holy Tuesday)

Today’s Readings

On the night that the Lord was arrested, Judas betrayed him, and Peter denied knowing him.  As we know, Peter and Judas were among our Lord’s closest friends and disciples, so it wasn’t a very good night for him.  Nor for the two disciples.

They both loved Christ and had left everything to follow him.  So what happened?  They started out quite nicely—generous and determined—but like all of us, they must have made a wrong turn somewhere.   Continue reading “HOW DO I FOLLOW YOU?” (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38): 18 March 2008 (Holy Tuesday)

“WHY GET CARRIED AWAY?” (Jn 12:1-11): 17 March 2008 (Holy Monday)

“WHY GET CARRIED AWAY?” (Jn 12:1-11):  17 March 2008 (Holy Monday)

Today’s Readings

Bette Midler starred in a 1979 movie called “The Rose.” It’s loosely based on the life of rock singer, Janis Joplin.  I never saw the movie because I figured that it would be too depressing to watch a movie about a self-destructive celebrity.   At least that’s what the trailer looked like to me then. But I’ve always liked the song from the movie.

The song has the simplest melody, sung by Midler in the simplest of ways–but it has the most extraordinary words!  The song is really a series of attempts to define love and to find a symbol for it in all its excesses:  a river that drowns, a razor that cuts, a hunger that aches.   Continue reading “WHY GET CARRIED AWAY?” (Jn 12:1-11): 17 March 2008 (Holy Monday)

‘WHAT’S MY THORN?’ (Mt 27:11-54): 16 March 2008 (Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)

‘WHAT’S MY THORN?’ (Mt 27:11-54):  16 March 2008 (Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)

Today’s Readings

Thirty years ago when I was still a high school student, I stumbled over this novel about a priest gone astray.  Hailed as Australia’s version of Gone with the Wind, this bestselling novel written by Colleen McCullough was eventually adapted into a mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward in 1983. Continue reading ‘WHAT’S MY THORN?’ (Mt 27:11-54): 16 March 2008 (Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)

“DO YOU REALLY KNOW BETTER?” (Lk 2:41-51): 15 March 2008 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)

“DO YOU REALLY KNOW BETTER?” (Lk 2:41-51): 15 March 2008 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)

Today’s Readings

A few weeks ago I heard the song “Better than I” at a friend’s wedding.  It was the first time I heard the song, a song that turned out to be from the animated musical, “Joseph:  King of Dreams.”

In the movie, Joseph who has been sold by his brothers to Egyptian slave traders, eventually finds himself in prison again because he has been falsely accused.  He feels abandoned by God.  But as he remembers his life, he realizes that God has actually always been with him and has even orchestrated everything in his life to make sure that everything turns out right. Continue reading “DO YOU REALLY KNOW BETTER?” (Lk 2:41-51): 15 March 2008 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)