The authors of the Christian Scriptures believe Jesus' followers must perform one essential task throughout their lives. Luke not only revolves his Acts reading (4:32-55) around this mission, he tells us up front what it is. "With great power," he writes, "the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus."

Since belief in Jesus' resurrection is the heart of our faith, any actions which flow from that faith must demonstrate our conviction that Jesus lives. The Sacred Authors have no doubt about which things proclaim resurrection faith. John's explicit about the issue in Sunday's Gospel (John 20:19-31). Listen to what Thomas requires as proof that Jesus has truly risen. Paraphrasing Cuba Gooding's famous line from the movie "Jerry Maguire," the Twin demands, "Show me the wounds!"

Demanding proof

"I'll never believe it," Thomas insists, "without probing the nail-prints in His hands, without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand into His side." Strangely, Thomas doesn't ask to see Jesus' halo or some heavenly memento. He demands to see proof of Jesus' weakest " not His most powerful " moment.

Thomas must first be certain Jesus has died before he can be certain Jesus has risen. Unless the unbeliever sees the wounds, he/she will never be convinced that Jesus, now alive, was once dead.

We who claim to have died and come to life along with Jesus must also show our wounds. There's no other way to witness to Jesus' resurrection. That's why Luke, after stating that "the apostles bore witness to the resurrection," immediately described the Jerusalem community's acts of weakness, not their acts of strength: "There was no one needy among them, for all who owned property or houses sold them and donated the proceeds. They used to lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to need."

Ideal followers of Jesus deliberately get rid of the very things which assure security and power. They make themselves weak, wounding themselves in a way that unbelievers find incomprehensible. We can only convince people of our resurrection by first convincing them of our death.

Showing our wounds

The need to show our wounds also underlies Jesus' Easter words to His disciples in Sunday's Gospel: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound." Accustomed to reading these lines as a foundation text for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we discover a somewhat different meaning when we put ourselves in the place of John's original community.

Instead of bestowing a power on the disciples at that moment, a power they didn't have before Jesus miraculously entered the room, the early Christian community regarded Jesus' words as a reminder of a power all followers of Jesus are asked to renounce: the power we have over those whom we don't forgive.

Forgivers release the forgiven from whatever ties them down to the past, from whatever binds them to a specific time and place, from whatever stops them from becoming the new people God expects. Those who say, "I forgive!" automatically give up their position of strength and accept a position of weakness. Instead of controlling a bound, dead, guilty person, they help create a liberated, free, live individual; but at the cost of wounding themselves.

Forgiveness

Those who forgive are able to show the wounds which have made another human being whole. The life which the forgiven experiences happens only because the forgiver experiences death.

No wonder the author of I John proclaims (5:1-6): "The power that has conquered the world is this faith of ours." The conqueror believes Jesus "came through water and blood not in water only; but in water and in blood." Commentators hold that "blood" here refers to Jesus' crucifixion. In other words, Jesus brings life (the symbolic "water" of baptism) by dying. Like He does for Thomas, Jesus must show his wounds whenever there's a question of His being alive or His giving life.

Perhaps more people would join us, the Church, in our quest for life if we started showing more wounds.

(04-03-97)