Tuesday 8 May 2012

Returning with Nail Marks

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The idea of returning is an interesting one. Off the top of my head, I can think of the Terminator's utterance of “I'll be baack” with an Austrian accent; or The Return of the King on Middle-Earth. There are themes of returning as well in today's readings of the mass. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul returns to Lystia to give support to the local church, and this return is made all the more dramatic because the last time Paul was there, he was stoned and people took him for dead. He returns to the place where he was persecuted, where he almost lost his life. In the Gospel of today, it is the scene of the Last Supper. Jesus knows that his hour has come; he must leave his disciples whom he now calls friends. But Jesus tells them to not be troubled; he will return.

Returning implies that one has been at a place, leaves it, and goes back to the same place again. There is a period of departure in the middle. What happens in this middle frame? Well, Jesus died and rose again. Paul in a sense also “rose from the dead” and went to preach in other towns. In both cases, there has been a drastic change; a transformation of some sort. This change will not go unnoticed: when Paul returns to Lystia, those who belong to the local church there see the scars from the stoning, yet Paul gives them words of encouragement and assurance with a spark in his eyes.

With Jesus, the disciples see that it is indeed the master, the same one who was nailed to the cross and died like a criminal. Now he is standing in front of them, alive and well. He shows them the nail marks in his hands, where the nails went through. They can feel it; it feels surreal, but it is real. This Jesus is the same Jesus, but yet he is not. He has resurrected.

It is a resurrection that encourages by words, but most importantly by the scars. Violence, injustice, persecution and suffering cannot and do not have the last word; they leave their marks, but they no longer lord over us, because our Lord has conquered them. This is the reason why such a returning gives hope.

We are people of the Resurrection; we have been crucified and are risen with Christ. As Christ returns to his disciples, so we return. There are necessarily places where we need to return to give witness to this resurrection, places where we have experienced hurts and tragedies. This returning is not an oratorical exercise, the giving of a rousing speech. It is not an abstract transformation of the intellect; it is about showing others the nail marks in your hands.

Let us ask the Lord to transform our wounds into nail marks, and the vision to see where we need to return to show our nail marks in bearing witness.

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