Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

People often stop identifying as Christian ‘because of Christians’ - because of what is missing in their lives. Young people especially and people who are marginalised can sniff out hypocrisy when others are not serious about what  Jesus took seriously, e.g., embracing the gospel of inclusion and nonviolence, of compassionate love and acceptance; of not stepping up to the mark when a genocide is occurring before our eyes; when religious freedom is demanded along with the right to discriminate; when fear drives us rather than loving responses; when we still proclaim a God in our own image who is not about spacious mercy and kindness but vengeance.

In Touch the Wounds: On Suffering, Trust, and Transformation, Czech priest and theologian, Tomáš Halík knows much about wounds in his personal life in the Czech underground church, his secret ministry then, and now. He claims to be too old to understand the language of birds and not simple enough to understand the speech of the angels, but ‘I can hear Christ speaking in the wounds of the world, I hear there his call and the beat of his heart: I can’t fail to understand, I can’t pretend deafness. And over and over again—and never sufficiently—I learn the language of touch that would answer his call, the art of touches that are gentle enough to bring relief to places of pain.” He continues saying, “Encountering Christ is dangerous, because through his wounds he removes our dark glasses, opens our eyes, and leads us away from those paths that we do often readily take ‘with eyes closed.’” How relevant for our times when so many in religious and political leadership look away and refuse to step up and condemn the wounds caused by violence and oppression. In this context, Halik says that “Christ comes to us and does not conceal his wounds by displays them in order to give us the courage to remove our armour, our masks, and our makeup and look not only at the wounds and scars that we conceal beneath them from others and often from ourselves but also at the wounds we have inflicted on others.”

When we can no longer see Jesus, where do they look? They are looking for him in our lives and in communities that that care for the needy, that sacrifice rather than hoard, that include rather than exclude, that listen rather than speak. Maybe the world is asking to see what we are willing to risk for the sake of love.


We see in Thomas one who faith was wounded by the crisis he faced. But it was also resurrected because as Halik says, ‘only a wounded faith with the visible “marks of the nails” is credible and capable of healing others.’ Writing in this connection, Dom Anselm Grün writes, ‘The transformation of my own wounds into pearls means for me that I regard my wounds as something precious. Where I am wounded I am more sensitive toward other people. I understand them better. And where I am wounded I come into contact with my own heart, with my real being. I abandon the illusion of my strength, health, and perfection. I am aware of my own frailty, and this awareness makes me more real, more human, more merciful, and softer. My treasure is to be found in the place of my wound. There I come into contact with myself and my mission. I also uncover there my capacities. Only a wounded doctor knows how to heal. 14” (Tomáš Halík, Touch the Wounds: On Suffering, Trust, and Transformation)


Thomas is unfortunately labelled as ‘doubting.’ He never said, ‘I doubt it,’ but ‘I will not believe’ - unless he sees. He is saying that bodies matter - especially those that have confronted injustice and the powerful and bear the marks of torture. When the risen Jesus appeared to his friends it was a familiar body with the wounds he endured at the hands of brutal empire. This is how he is recognised. These marks are still present and cry out as a witness to who Jesus is. Jesus is recognised though his wounds.


Thomas is not a doubter but a courageous follower. There is no evidence that he doubts Jesus but doubts the witness of the other disciples who say they met the risen Jesus, yet remain fearful and in hiding. Is this not the experience of many in our church communities? No wonder Thomas found it hard to believe. He wanted to see what they said they saw. Despite Jesus’ earlier appearance, they remained locked in fear in the same house, with the same closed doors, and the same locks.


Thomas is present when Jesus appears this second time. He does not need to touch Jesus but believes and confesses him as ‘My Lord and my God!’ In the Jesus’ wounds and scars Thomas sees victory not defeat. The brutality and cruelty of empire had no power over him. These wounds do not have the last word in people who have been unjustly crushed and tortured.


Thomas expected and demanded to see wounds. It seems that Thomas is unable to believe in a God who skips through the world unaffected by its pain and suffering.


To believe Jesus is risen means one cannot look away from wounds in oneself or others. One cannot believe when people are locked up in fear; when people look for security in possessions rather than relationships. Thomas sees and names a new relationship and a new way of being in the world which has nothing to do with fear that keeps people closed up or entombed in the room. Being in a locked room or locked church or locked border is not a good place for a Jesus follower to be.  When Jesus says ‘Come out!’ to Lazarus in the tomb, he breathes the Spirit of life, mercy, compassion, courage and peace upon us for us to go beyond our closed and barricaded hearts so that we can take God’s spacious mercy and that peace to others – to transform this world into a reign of justice, peace, love and joy, by insisting that the way to bring peace is through forgiveness, reconciliation and love, not by violence, war and death. That cannot happen in locked rooms, ghettoes or church buildings.


Pope Francis challenges our church about being a ghettoed, closeted and closed community that is fearful of change, women’s rights, Muslim, progressive people, the love of gay and lesbian people, and the stranger. We are challenged to move from ‘kleiso’ (closeted) to ‘ecclesia’ (open church).


Thomas knew death, and that rising from the dead, involved wounds and scars. The God that matters is one with wounds. Only this God can be in solidarity with our ailing planet and the crucified peoples of the earth. Pope Francis in Laudato si’ reminds us how the earth is being crucified as well-the wounds it bears in the form of countless species’ extinctions, collapse of fisheries, rampant deforestation, demise of coral reefs, rising sea levels, acidified oceans, and rising global temperatures, caused by the unprecedented rise in greenhouse gases from industrial nations. Those wounds appear in the mounting human toll of famine and drought leading to starvation and death, with more and more people fleeing their drought-stricken lands or sinking coasts. We cannot look away. These wounds cannot be ignored. We have to touch and let them involve us. Jesus points to these wounds because they are his and he says ‘put your finger here’ – touch and put minds and voices there. When we touch suffering, we realise that Jesus is alive. Our faith needs hands and feet; it needs voices and hearts capable of crossing walls as Jesus does - real walls that divide people.


Do we remain in that symbolic upper room in fear and hopelessness and avoid the confrontation that may come when we raise our voices about these wounds? Do we do life differently? Do we believe that we are held together by the presence of one who speaks words of peace, wholeness, connectedness, and inclusiveness? If we do believe, we will not run away from the wounds we encounter in ourselves, in others and in creation.

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