My father was not one to demonstrate affection to us kids either physically or verbally. However, while he was in the hospital dying, one day he held up his hands and said to my mom and me, “I showed my love by these hands.” Dad always worked night shift in a factory and came home at three in the morning. His hands were calloused. Sometimes a fingernail was black, damaged in the shop.
I thought of my father’s hands when I read the account of the risen Lord coming to his apostles for the first time. They already heard he was alive from the women and from the two disciples who met him on the way to Emmaus. But they don’t believe he rose from the dead. When Jesus comes though the locked doors, they are terrified and think he is a ghost. Jesus proves that it is really he by showing his hands and feet that are still marked with the wounds of his love. You would think that a new, glorified body would be perfect—but, no, the body of Jesus bore scars. He may be marked like that for all eternity so that we too will see his scars.
Jesus proved that he wasn’t a ghost by inviting the apostles to touch him, by explaining the Scripture passages that referred to his death and resurrection, and by eating some fish. (Ghosts don’t eat.) But the most convincing sign of Jesus’s identity was those five wounds. They were red badges of his love for us.
Loving service takes a toll on us too. Parents bear scars of burns from cooking meals for their families and ironing clothes. Teachers and nurses often develop varicose veins from standing for long hours. Members of the armed forces come home maimed. Police officers get shot or hit or dragged by cars. Some people sacrifice a kidney so that another person can live.
This week we might reflect on people who have been wounded in the course of loving us. We might also ask how we have followed the example of Jesus by offering ourselves for others in some form. What kind of scars do we bear? Blisters from building a Habitat for Humanity house? A knife cut on a finger from preparing a meal for someone in a hunger center? Keep in mind that some scars are not visible, for example, a bruised heart from being rebuffed after attempting to reconcile with someone.
As we celebrate the fifty days of the Easter season, let’s not forget that the triumph was only possible because God endured Good Friday’s pain for love of us.