Readings (Year B)
Reflection: Marked by human experience
In today’s second reading from John, the same verses that emphasize our human limitations call us toward more. We are reminded of our call to know God. But how? We can never fully know the mystery of another human being, let alone the author of life! This concept of knowing involves our entire person. In the same way we can grow to understand another human being by living in proximity to them—by walking side by side, living a shared life, watching a person’s actions and listening to their words—we try to observe what God’s incarnate son chose, did, and said.
Today’s gospel reading picks up where the story about the disciples on the road to Emmaus leaves off. Jesus enters the room and all the disciples see him before them, resurrected from the dead, but not made “whole”—his wounds remain. Why doesn’t God make him new? In the sea of infinite choices God can make, and the choices the resurrected Christ can make at that moment in time, why keep the wounds? How do we know Jesus better by his choice to remain marked by his human experience?
A wounded Jesus reaches out to his imperfect community, the same people who left him alone in his darkest hours of prayer prior to his arrest. Some fled, denied, and hid; others, maybe more painful still, witnessed his torture and death. All huddled together in grief over the loss of their Jesus. As I think of the Jesus that stands before the disciples, I think of individuals, and whole groups of people, who experience suffering, hardship, injustice or sin that leaves marks—marks that leave an inescapable feeling that this harm can never be undone. They are forever changed from who they once were. They are wounded, broken; They will never be whole again. Does Jesus give us access to a hope that exists beyond this hurt?
Very recently one of my closest friends from the Navy had an emergency c-section and ultimately her sweet baby, James, returned to God much sooner than we wanted. While speaking to her, this mother made a striking statement—that she would forever hold sacred the scar over her womb because it visibly showed how hard she, her husband, and the doctors and nurses had fought for her baby. She then said how very much she didn’t want her body scarred by a loss so great.
That is what it means to be human. And that is a glimpse of the magnitude of Jesus’ choice to remain marked: Jesus chooses to bear the marks of life. He chooses to show, to acknowledge, to share his wounds. He chooses to reach out to his disciples—wounded—and surround himself with the imperfect community of those he loves. He gives us a way forward. And by trying to see and live what God’s son reveals to us through these profound choices, we know God.
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