Second Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2017
A fair number of years ago, when I was much younger, healthier, and more fit, I was in a convenience store fairly late in the evening. As I was making my way through the aisles, I saw a very unkempt man. His chest-length beard and shoulder-length hair were filthy. The mismatched layers of clothes hanging from him were little better than dirty rags and were completely unsuited to the warm summer night. His shoes were so worn out they barely covered his feet. To complete the image, he was staggering around and mumbling to himself. I confess that I quickly distanced myself from this person. Before I did, however, I managed to get a glimpse of his face. The identifying characteristic was a deep depression and scar on his forehead. Clearly, sometime in the past, the poor man had suffered an obviously severe head trauma.
Having paid for the few items that I was there to buy, I stepped out of the brightly lit store into the dark parking lot. It was then that this man jumped out at me from the shadows, blocking my path to my car. I couldn’t see his face but I certainly heard him speak. He said: You are gonna see Jesus!
Quite honestly, I do not ever recall having been so panicked in my entire life. I was certain that there was a gun, a knife, or a tire iron in his hand. In that moment, although my life did not pass before me, I truly believed that I had come to the hour of my death. I was frozen. Even though I was in far better physical condition than today, it didn’t even occur to me to flee or to somehow defend myself. I just stood there, electrified.
And then the man went on: …and someday, so will I, and Jesus is gonna touch my head and fix me and I’ll be like everybody else…and everything will be OK!
In an instant, the panic and terror left me, replaced by shame, compassion, and an overwhelming feeling of…yes! LOVE. While it was my arm that was extended, my hand that rested on his shoulder, and my voice that spoke, I am absolutely certain that the gesture and the words were motivated by Someone else. I heard myself say: Yes…someday, you will see Jesus and Jesus will touch your head, and He is going to say “I am so sorry you were hurt! But I don’t want you to be like everybody else…I love you just the way you are!” And everything will be OK!
When I think back to that most terrifying moment of my life, I also see it as a great blessing. I have recalled and reflected on that encounter over and over since that hot, dark summer night, especially at Easter time, when Resurrection is very much a part of our Readings, our thoughts, our hopes, and our prayers. That experience is especially meaningful and powerful for me on this Divine Mercy Sunday.
No one can be certain of what it means to share in the Glory of the Risen Christ. Many, like Thomas, have doubt. But many more can never bring themselves to believe.
Others, like Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the disciple who Jesus loved are slow to recognize…slow to enter into the fullness of the mystery of eternal life. Some, like the Emmaus couple, are privileged in a special way and come to understand Eternal Life through the Word and Sacraments.
Those who do “walk by faith and not by sight” try our best to imagine the thing we most hope for but cannot see, for that poor, broken soul who blocked my path on that dark summer night, Resurrection means healing…being restored…being touched by Jesus so that everything will be OK!
And there is the purpose for and lesson of Divine Mercy Sunday. Someday, each of us will stand before the all-loving and merciful judge. And Jesus is gonna touch that part of us that was injured and scarred by sin, making us less than what we were created to be. The touch of Christ will fix us and everything will be OK!