BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
3rd Sunday of Easter | April 15, 2018
Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador with a group of high school students for an immersive experience in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Ecuador.
As part of our experience, we visited this organization known as Damian’s House, a hospital and home for women and men diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, more commonly known as leprosy.
Now, I know we hear about leprosy in Scripture, but the reality of the disease is pretty brutal to witness up close.
The disease attacks the nerves in the extremities of the body . . . fingers, toes, arms and legs. As the disease progresses, many individuals lose these body parts.
It is the first thing you notice when you first meet the residents of Damian’s House. You notice the hand that is missing fingers or the man who lost both legs. You notice the woman with a stump for an arm or the girls whose nose is permanently deformed.
And then the discomfort and fear begins to seep in.
You find yourself staring at the grotesque injuries and scars, even though we know it is impolite.
You hesitate to grasp that gnarled stump in greeting.
You question whether or not that individual is still contagious, even though the medical staff has assured you that there is zero risk of contracting the disease.
But each year I go, I watch something miraculous occur.
I watch as the students move past their discomfort and fear to encounter these patients.
I watch as they begin playing dominoes: laughing, trash talking, and learning from these seasoned veterans.
I watch as they hold the crippled hand of a patient and don’t let go, as she tells her story and shares her tears.
I watch as they embrace an elderly man who has gone blind, holding his frail, broken body in their hands.
And in these encounters, I witness the power of Resurrection.
Students are freed from the shackles of their own insecurity and discomfort, their own fear and prejudice.
Patients are reminded of the life-giving truth that they have worth and dignity as beloved children of God.
And I am reminded of the lesson that Jesus left us in this Gospel.
See, when Jesus showed up in that enclosed space, the disciples were a mess.
They were frightened and confused.
They were guilt-ridden and grief-stricken.
And suddenly, Jesus just appears in their midst. But he did not appear in a manner that would have been easy to look at.
For he came bearing all of the terrible wounds and scars that he had endured on that road to Calvary.
One can’t help but imagine what that scene would have looked like.
The disciples fixated on the nail marks in his hands and the mutilated flesh where once had rested a crown of thorns.
The discomfort that would have been palpable as the disciples were forced to acknowledge the wounds that Christ bore.
But then Jesus does something unexpected.
He invites them to touch the wounds.
For in touching the wounds, they would drain them of their power.
For in touching the wounds, they would finally begin to understand the power of Resurrection to triumph over every injury and suffering, every force of evil and every moment of death.
And it is this lesson that I believe is so poignant for each of us during this Easter season.
Which is that, if we are going to fully experience Resurrection, we must first be comfortable touching the wounds of Christ.
We must be comfortable touching the wounds in those around us.
Sitting with and encountering the stories and the situations that have scarred our neighbors.
The suicide attempt and the drug overdose
The divorce and the abusive husband
The layoff and the failed class and the constant battle with anxiety
The miscarriage and the broken hip and the child who has left the Church.
But we also must be comfortable touching our own wounds and exposing them to Christ’s healing presence.
Our insecurities and our doubts.
Our failures and feelings of inadequacy.
Our anxieties, our fears
And the overwhelming feeling that we will never be good enough, smart enough, talented enough, holy enough.
For when we have the courage to touch the wounds of Christ my friends, we find that the wounds begin to lose their power.
For we discover that there is a power greater than death.
And it is love. The love poured out for us on the cross. The love offered to us by our Risen Lord. The love within each of us as his beloved daughters and sons.
This truly is Good News indeed!! Let us rejoice this day and be glad in it.
May God be Praised.