Reach out your hand

It is beautiful to start with Our Lady, she who carried the Word made flesh in her heart and her body, she through whose co-operation Our Lord was brought into the world. In the great hymn the Magnificat, Our Lady speaks of Him who puts forth His arm in strength.

If we are called to imitate Christ, what does it mean to put forth our arm in strength? We are asked to put it forth in the strength of faith. Another way, perhaps, of saying ‘put forth your arm’ is ‘reach out your hand’.

Jesus appears to Thomas, after the Resurrection. “Reach out your hand.” This is what Our Lord says to Thomas who doubts. “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

Caravaggio_-The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Caravaggio –  The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

 

Why his side? Because the soldier had already pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, from He who is a fount of mercy in whom we can trust; from the one who says, “Do not doubt but believe.”

Where else do we see a flow of water and blood? The first plague of Moses. With his staff, Moses struck the river and water turned into blood. Moses did this that Pharaoh’s heart would yield.

“Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” This is the message Our Lord God sent to Pharaoh.

The first sign of Jesus, the one which revealed his glory and caused his disciples to believe in Him, was the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Cana. He turned water into wine and the disciples, their hearts did yield. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup of wine. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And so, through another miraculous sign, the wine was turned into blood – into His Precious Blood. And why is this Blood poured out? For the forgiveness of sins, that our heart would yield to His Sacred Heart, and that we would be let go from our slaver to sin so that we may worship Him.

From water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana, and from wine into Blood at the marriage supper of the Lamb, Our Lord fulfils the sign of Moses and frees us from the yoke of slavery.

At that same supper of the Lamb, the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining next to him and leaned back against Jesus. He, the disciple, placed his trust, his love , his life, his will, his future in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, hidden behind His chest. He was leant back against Jesus, he yielded to him and he was set free.

The first plague of Moses was the turning of water into blood. The first sign of Jesus was the turning of water into wine. And the last sign of Jesus, before His glorious resurrection, is the blood and water which poured out from his side as he hung from the cross.

“Let my people go,” said Moses and the new Moses bowed his head and gave up His spirit so that His people might be let go.

How exactly did Moses turn the water into blood? Through the power of God, and with a staff, the staff that had been turned into a snake; the staff that had swallowed up the staff of the Egyptian magicians who practised the secret arts: evil.

And from whence did come this staff? It was the sign from God for Moses. It was the staff which is the desert – in the wilderness – the Lord God told Moses to throw to the ground.

“So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’ – so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand – ‘so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abrahama, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’

And of course later, “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ “

And many years later, Jesus explained that, “just as Moses lifted the snake in the desert, so the Son of Many must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

And not much later again, the Son of Man – the new Moses – the Lord Jesus Christ – is indeed lifted up. The cross – a symbol of a torturous death, a sign of slavery, subjection and evil – is now, through the power of God, transformed into a symbol of victory, of self-sacrificial love. Light swallows up the darkness just as the staff of Moses swallowed up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians.

The Good News did not end at the death of God who hung from a cross. Because in being thus raised up on a cross, He exposed His Sacred Heart to us. In being raised on the cross, He allowed the spear to be put into His side so that blood and water could pour out. And the Good News did not end at the death of God because as well as being raised on the cross, Jesus was raised from the cross.

The great I Am told Moses, “Reach out your hand…so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has appeared…”.

And Jesus, the one who said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’, is raised from death and appears to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

 

[I think most of the Scripture quotes are NRSV but I’m not sure if they all are!]

Battle Scars: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Pieta_(1876)_modif_2After wasting too much time on Facebook, I called quits on it until report card writing is finished. Since I haven’t been able to make witty status updates about the painfulness of report card writing, I have been listening to music to distract myself as I write them. I suppose I could instead have offered it up for the souls in purgatory but I didn’t think of that until now.

A song that I really love is Battle Scars by Guy Sebastian featuring Lupe Fiasco. I really like what Guy Sebastian said on the behind the scenes video: “We just really wanted to speak to people from all walks of life and I guess everybody has battle scars.”

Christ knows what it is to have battle scars.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” 

John 20: 19-20

Battle Scars

Where do battle scars come from? Battle wounds. Wounds caused by sin: by our own sinfulness and by the sinfulness of others. In Christ’s case, the battle scars are caused not by His sin – for He is without sin – but they are caused by our sin. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”  (1 Pet 2:24)

Hope the wound heals but it never does
That’s cause you’re at war with love
You’re at war with love

It’s so true, isn’t it? So long as we are at war with love – Love Himself – the wounds won’t heal. When we’re at war with Love, the wounds are ripped open over and over.

But the song doesn’t always get it right:

Now you’re down on the ground screaming medic
The only thing that comes is the post-traumatic stresses
Shields, body armors and vests don’t properly work

When we’re down on the ground, screaming, Christ is the medic and into our wounds, into our brokenness, Christ pours out love and mercy from the depths of His Sacred Heart. On this battlefield, Christ gives us his Church, the field hospital. And the shields, armour and vests of this world don’t properly work but Christ gives us the shield of faith, the armour of God, the breastplate of righteousness.

I wish I couldn’t feel, I wish I couldn’t love
I wish that I could stop cause it hurts so much
And I’m the only one that’s trying to keep us together

In the Garden at Gethsemane, Jesus was deeply troubled. He prayed that the cup would pass from him. Jesus is the suffering servant, the one who underwent the agony and the passion. Yet through all this, Jesus loved. He loved until it hurt. He loved until death. He has never stopped loving no matter how much our continued sinfulness hurts Him. He is the one trying to keep us together.

These battle scars don’t look like they’re fading
Don’t look like they’re ever going away
They ain’t never gonna change

The scars of Christ did not go away. Luke’s Gospel recounts how Jesus said to the disciples, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.” But the wounds of Christ had changed. They are now part of the resurrected Christ.

See, you hoped the wound heals, but it never does
That’s cause you’re at war with love
Hope it heals, but it never does
That’s cause you’re at war with love!

It is only when we stop fighting Love, we can allow ourselves to be healed.

The man going from Jerusalem to Jericho was half-dead on the side of the road. But the Samaritan was moved with pity. “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”   (Lk 10:34)

Will we stop fighting Christ and instead allow him to bandage our wounds? Be anointed with the oil, His Holy Spirit. Be healed by the wine: His precious blood poured out for us on the cross and at the mass.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”                 (1 Pet 2: 24-25)

These battle scars don’t look like they’re fading
Don’t look like they’re ever going away
I ain’t never gonna change

Please pray for all those who suffer PTSD. Please pray for all those who are returned from war. Please pray for those who despair. Please pray for those who are obstinate in not changing. And please pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, especially those who were in the military.

[Scripture quotes are NRSV]