The Gospel for April 23 gives us another encounter with the risen Lord Jesus: “He showed them his hands and his side” (Jn 20:20). The risen Jesus doesn’t leave his wounds behind when he shows himself to the disciples. Rather, he shows evidence of his Passion.
Why would he do this?
For us, it might seem more fitting that a risen Jesus would show up without scars and marks. But Jesus shows his scarred hands and pierced side to the disciples.
One reason Jesus keeps his scars is to prove the identity between the once crucified and now risen body of our Lord. The same body that died on the cross now stands alive before the disciples. This evidence proved to Thomas that it was indeed Jesus who stood before him. Without the wounds, he might have been stuck in unbelief.
But another important reason for the wounds is that they show the cost of God’s love for us. When the human race was dead in sin, Jesus took upon himself the price of our redemption. As God and man, Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross is the most complete and total act of love and obedience possible for the human race. The gravity of original and actual sin was so great that no number of animal sacrifices or good moral living could undo the punishment. Only God himself could bridge the chasm that separated mankind from its creator. The cross of Christ bridges that gap.
This is why the wounds are important for us. They remind us of the sacrifice of Calvary. They show us that Jesus lives forever, offering that one sacrifice to the father in atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world. The wounds show us that the act of love, which Christ accomplished on the cross, remains a fixed reality for us. This is such a great act of Christ’s mercy, which we still experience.
Jesus then sends out his disciples as the father sent him to undo the damage of original sin. How are they to do this?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives them the authority to forgive sins in his name. Through this sending and bestowal of authority, Jesus continues to forgive the sins of his people today through the ministry of bishops and priests in the sacrament of reconciliation.
St. Faustina Kowalska, whose visions of Jesus’ divine mercy we celebrate today, recorded in her diary Christ’s words to her about confession: “I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest. … I myself act in your soul.”
In confession, Jesus waits for us, ready to heal and forgive. He shows us his pierced hands and side and allows a fountain of mercy to flow upon us. Especially when we are most miserable and feel most unworthy to approach God’s mercy, Jesus shows us his wounds, which tell of the depth of his love for us. Again,
St. Faustina writes, “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.”
We should never fear to approach God’s mercy, because Jesus has offered himself as expiation for our sins and keeps his wounds to show us the depth of his love.
Deacon Miller is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota. His teaching parish is St. Lawrence and Newman Center in Minneapolis, and his home parish is St. Joseph in Devils Lake, North Dakota.
Sunday, April 23
Divine Mercy Sunday
Category: Sunday Scriptures