Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

There is nothing remote about Jesus’ resurrection. He comes among us in concrete ways – through flesh and blood and touch. It is bodily. God cares about our bodies and our planet - especially those bearing wounds and scars. Where flesh and bone do not convince, Jesus asks for food. At the heart of the Christian story is the claim that God’s love is expressed in the most intimate way possible - by becoming one of us. By being embedded in the human, God is always present wherever we are – present in us. It is also how God gets into the world. God revels in physicality and it is through our bodies that we express our faith. In all his resurrection appearances, Jesus shows the scars that mar his body.

The continuous invitation is to reach out and touch, to listen to the underside and be with them. This God, who is flesh and blood, is vulnerable to everything that is human including the ability to be hurt. Jesus’ scars are a mark of authenticity. His scars tell a story of a human being committed to a vision of God and God’s reign that is extravagantly able to embrace anyone and everyone. The scars also tell a story of resistance to the dehumanising forces of empire by insisting that for God everyone is valuable. The scars tell a story of favouring peacemaking over violence and love over hatred.

The gospels do not try to hide Jesus’ scars. Though they may be souvenirs of failure in terms of Good Friday, he embraces his scars which confirm his identity and give comfort to the disciples.

In the midst of distress and confusion, Jesus appears to the disciples saying, ‘Peace be with you’ (Luke 24:36). To prove that he is alive and to resume table fellowship with his disciples, he asks for food (Luke 24:38-43) with a strong message. Greg Carey says, ‘Jesus’ message is shocking not because he extends the boundaries to include outsiders. His message shocks because it doesn’t recognize boundaries at all’ (https://sojo.net/articles/jesus-doesnt-extend-boundaries-he-refuses-recognize-them). Whereas those in power seek to exclude certain groups of people from service and leadership, others encourage welcome, inclusion and generosity. Whereas politicians, corporate and religious leaders reduce the table using scarcity and minimalism, Jesus makes it larger revealing a God who is always breaking open the closed systems so that more people enter. The Easter morning story is at the heart of our faith because it is God’s ‘yes’ to life and ‘no’ to death. The Easter evening story today tells how this movement began around a welcoming table. Jesus’ request for food is a reminder of the importance of hospitality – something the disciples forgot in their fear and confusion. Because of their fear and suspicion, the disciples remained aloof and neglected to offer food, water, shelter or comfort to Jesus.  Jesus’ vulnerability - ‘I’m hungry’ - reminded them, and us, of the fundamental call to hospitality and justice. Food and hospitality come before belief. 


Resurrection is always life changing. Jesus’ greeting of peace is a recurring gift and challenge. It is the only way to accept the radical message of resurrection. Though following Christ is not always clear, we can live by love and hospitality which vary and change according to those we encounter. Jesus’ love was countercultural. Our actions, our advocacy, our striving for peace with justice, our solidarity with people considered ‘outsiders’ or the underside of the world might raise eyebrows and lead to problems or conflict. But Jesus love inspires relationship not legalism, liberation not constriction or domination, and is other centred not self-centred. Through such actions, despite the risks and doubts, despite opposition, show that Jesus is truly risen. His offer of ‘peace’ (shalom) is a challenge to each of us:  what are you doing to make the world look more like God’s world rather than one dominated and organised by governments, multi-national corporations, markets and organised religion which drive the spikes and nails into the hands and feet of our sisters and brothers. ‘See my hands, see my feet.’ Jesus’ hunger is connected (cf. Mt 25) with hungry people being fed, naked people being clothed, people in prison being visited; strangers, migrants, asylum seekers being welcomed. Their wounds are his wounds! We are continually reminded that our wounds are gifts. It remarkable that Jesus choses to share what is most revealing about himself: the unmistakable signs of his crucifixion, defeat and vulnerability which he shares with crucified humanity. It is by welcoming our wounds that we can be open to and sensitive to the wounds of others. Richard Rohr ofm, says, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” Jesus allows his pain to be transformed. They allow the world to enter so that healing and hope can flow from those wounds to his disciples and beyond. We learn mercy and loving kindness because we accept our failures and fears. God’s life of mercy must break into our hearts if we are to take God spacious mercy to others. This is how we witness to God’s love even though the Church is not clean of injustice, remains silent out of fear or when its interests are threatened. It continues to be capable of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and oppressive in different ways. The Risen One calls us to walk the way of justice. The disciples showed humility in their failure to recognise the Risen Jesus among them. We, like them, do not always get it right but our humility can free us to accept our reality of missing the mark and actively examine ourselves when we fail to uproot injustice and exclusion, and strive for radical equity and kinship.  The Gospel writers were not afraid to admit that they got things wrong – how they failed to understand Jesus' mission which led to his death and resurrection and how they failed to understand the nonviolence he taught. But a new understanding took hold – an understanding that new life comes from welcoming the marginalised, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and proclaiming good news to the poor and knowing God is with the suffering, embodied in the suffering, and loving the suffering into new life from the inside-out.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when being led to his execution, left a piece of paper with the words, ‘Only a suffering God can help.’ Only a God with scars help. Only a disciple with scars helps. Only a church with scars helps. It is a challenge to all of us individually and to our churches. Unwillingness to welcome our wounds causes more wounds in the world. Richard Hays asks, ‘If the resurrection has broken into the world, however, why do we still live a world entangled in violence, injustice, and death? Why do innocent people continue to die in bombings, in senseless shootings, in acts of terror? Why the senseless violence, structural and physical, against Black people? Why does cancer continue to eat away at our bodies? (‘This is the day the Lord has made: Living the resurrection in a time of violence and despair’, ABC Religion and Ethics April 4, 2021). Paradoxically Jesus’ wounds pulled the disciples out of disbelief into a radical, life-altering faith with a witness of scars. If this Jesus is real, trustworthy and approachable, people need to see our scars rather than our piety, and see our vulnerability and imperfections rather than our power. So often divisions and quarrels within our communities and between communities prevent us from really believing in the crucified and risen Christ. Our ideologies and theologies blind us to the wounded body of Jesus who before us - one wanting to be touched, fed, respected, acknowledged in the least of our brothers and sisters in the world. We have been given new life by Jesus’ resurrection. If our eyes are open, we cannot help but see the plight of people and the Good Fridays they endure. Our call is to take on a new vision of life and practice resurrection. It is a call into a bold new way of loving, knowing that with God's help this love cannot be overcome.


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