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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The Wounds of Love

Robert Barron - The Wounds of Love

Robert Barron - The Wounds of Love

Peace be with you. Friends, on the second Sunday of Easter, Mercy Sunday, we read from the magnificent twentieth chapter of John's Gospel. St. John, of course, is a theological and spiritual genius, but also a literary genius. And all his powers are on display in this account of the risen Jesus. If we have the eyes to see, we can spy in this story, the whole of the Christian spiritual life. Look how it opens. "On the evening of that first day of the week…" John's Gospel is very attentive to the book of Genesis, lots of connections and overtones and undertones. The first day of the week, the first day: that's the day of creation, when God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. This Resurrection day is a day of new creation, when the whole cosmos now, under God's grace, is renewed, is restored, recreated.

Let there be light, yes, on that first day; but now the one who said, "I am the light of the world" will appear in his risen life. Now, where are they, the disciples? Well, they're gathered in fear in the upper room. You can only imagine, of course, after the death of Jesus, how traumatic it must have been for the followers of Jesus. They must have thought, well, there'll be after us in short order. There they are huddled in fear behind locked doors. Can you see, everybody, fellow sinners, how this is a great image of what happens spiritually to us in our sin and our fear. We lock ourselves in. That's where all forms of defensiveness are born. That's where our hatred, our violence comes from. We lock ourselves in. But despite the locked doors, Jesus comes and stands in their midst.

Here's a word now of amazing grace. We don't earn our salvation, we can't. We can't break out of the shut doors of our fear. But Christ can break in. Grace invades. That’s such good news. The risen Christ can overcome all the obstacles we set up for him. He's greater than our fear, greater than all the locked doors that we put in his way. Now, the risen Christ does here what he typically does. Go through all the accounts of the Resurrection appearances, you'll find this commonality. Jesus first shows his wounds. It's exceptionally important, isn't it? We should never treat the Resurrection as though it just blots out Good Friday. So, "That was just kind of a bad day. Too bad that happened. Now we're going to forget about it".

No, no; the risen Christ always bears his wounds and shows them. How come? Well, because those wounds were born of our sin. We are meant to see in the wounds of Christ our hatred, our cruelty, our violence, our self-absorption, our injustice. All of the things that brought him to the cross, well, he bears them. The minute we're tempted to say, "Well, I'm basically fine. Everything's okay with me. Deep down, I'm a good person". No, no; those wounds of Christ, yes, even on the risen Christ, are a reminder of our sin. I think I've told this story before in a homiletic setting, but the great Teresa of Avila, who frequently had visions of the saints and of the Lord, one day, the devil appeared to her as the risen Christ, but she saw through the ruse right away and said "Be gone". Before he left he said, "Well, how did you know I was a fake"? And she said, "Because you have no wounds".

So that's the sign we're dealing with the true Christ, yes, even the risen Christ, is he bears the wounds of our sin. But then he says, "Shalom," Peace. Wouldn't you expect, in most tellings of a story like this, if someone had been betrayed, denied, accused, run from, tortured, put to death, and now he's back from the grave. What would you expect? You'd expect them to come back in vengeance and in violence. And so he appears to those who had indeed betrayed, denied, run from him. And he says to them, "Shalom". Now, "shalom", peace, we say, but it's a word that sums up in the Bible everything that God wants for us. It's the peace beyond all understanding. It's the peace the world cannot give. Listen now: it's the peace that comes from God's forgiveness, yes, even of our greatest sin.

What's the greatest sin? Well, you see it in the wounds of Christ: that God came, and we killed him. That's the greatest sin possible. And Jesus, the murdered God, stands now before them and says, "Shalom". That means there's no sin that in principle is greater than God's love. Do you see how Christianity in a way is born at this moment, in the great forgiveness of sins manifested in the "Shalom" offered by the risen Christ. I mean, that's the whole story, everybody, in a way. But then this: he breathes on them. Now, what a powerful, evocative gesture. We hear in the book of Genesis, again, that the "ruach Yahweh", that means the breath of Yahweh, hovers over the surface of the waters. It's this breath of God that gives rise to the ordered creation. And so now, the risen Christ, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, breaths on them.

What's he breath forth but the "ruach Yahweh," but the Spirit of God. The love that connects the Father and the Son, he now breathes onto his disciples, filling them with this "Spiritus Sanctus," this holy breath. And then this. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you". There's no exception to this principle in the New Testament. Jesus calls people, yes, indeed, and then he sends them. I love the fact that Fulton Sheen said that Christian life is played out in between these two imperatives: come, and go. So, much of Jesus' ministry is "Come, come. Stay with me. Come and see. Come follow me". But then, "Go. Go on mission". "As the Father sent me, so I send you".

This is the Church now, everybody, filled with the "ruach Yahweh," filled with the Spiritus Sanctus, filled with the love that's beyond any sin we could possibly commit, to go forth and to breathe that same Spirit into the world. That's your job. That's my job. That's what it means to be a member of Christ’s Church. So I mean, enter into that moment, everybody, on this second Sunday of Easter. Put yourself in this upper room. Despite your fear, despite your locked doors, Christ has come in. Showed his wounds, yes, indeed; don't forget your sin. But then the "Shalom" that’s greater than your sin. And then maybe picture him, but better even, feel the breath of Jesus. He breathes on you. "Receive the Holy Spirit". "As the Father has sent me, so I send you". That's your job. Look, being a success in the world and all that, great. Fine. Fine. I mean, accomplish these goods. But the only thing that finally matters, the one thing that finally matters is: Have we breathed forth the divine Spirit into the world? That's what it means to be a member of the Church.

Can I say now, just in the last couple of minutes, a word about doubting Thomas, because at the end of this account, we have the famous story of Thomas. So this takes place with the Apostles, but Thomas is not there. We don't know why. We don’t know where he is. But Thomas is not there. He comes back, and they tell him what had happened. I always love that scene. I just imagine their excitement. "The Lord, the Lord Jesus, he came. He appeared to us. He showed us his wounds. He said 'Shalom.' He breathed on us and sent us forth". And Thomas: "Come on. Come on. I mean, unless I can put my fingers in the wounds in his hands and put my hand in his side, I'm not going to believe".

Notice something here, again, the book of Genesis. What's the original sin but a grasping? They grasp, Adam and Eve, at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They take it for themselves. Did God want to keep the good of that tree from them? Well, no. But God wanted to give it as a gift. The one thing we can't do is seize the divine life as though it's our prerogative, as though we can make it our own possession. I've got it. See, that's the problem. In the very act of trying to seize God, I will lose God. I can only receive the divine life as a gift, as a grace. What's the trouble with Thomas? The first problem is this grasping. "Unless I see, unless I place my finger, unless I put my hand in his side". Well, you can't receive the divine life that way. Well, a week later, Jesus comes again. And this time Thomas is with them. "Thomas, come, put your finger in the wounds in my hand. Put your hand in my side".

You see, he offers his life now as a gift. He offers his presence as a gift. And how wonderful, and I say this now to anyone out there who feels skepticism in regard to the faith, who's identified with Thomas, who struggles to believe. It's Thomas who utters the most profound confession in all of the New Testament. Kneeling at the feet of the risen Christ, Thomas says, "My Lord and my God". It's the doubter who in the presence of grace finally and fully gets it. So, in a way, don't despise your own doubts, your own skepticism. They might be leading you to this moment of grace when you can make this full confession of the identity of Jesus. Just one last observation about Thomas. What was the problem now? How come Thomas didn't get it? Well, the grasping thing, yes. But also because he wasn't in the Church; he was away from the Eleven.

Jesus appeared in the midst of the Apostles. That's code here now in the Gospel for: he appeared in the midst of the Church. When Thomas returned, and now he's with his brothers, he's now in the Church, that's when he gets it. That's when he receives the word of grace. Where do we find the risen Christ? Well, I mean, he finds us in all kinds of ways, but the privileged place we find him is precisely in the community of the Church. It's in the Scripture. It's in the liturgy. It's in the sacraments, above all, in the Eucharist. It's under the aegis of the teaching and authority of the Church. That's where we find him. That's where we hear him. That's where we best receive the gift of his grace. So friends, on this second Sunday of Easter, go back to the twentieth chapter of St. John's Gospel. Read this story again in a prayerful spirit. I think you'll see the whole of the Christian life unfolded before you. And God bless you.
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