Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 11, 2014 - Year A
Healed by His Wounds
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)
It is a strange analogy. We do not easily equate wounds with a good result. Peter grasps a deeply held understanding of the efficacious sacrifice of Christ when he says, "By his wounds you have been healed."
Following at a distance, Peter positioned himself to see what would become of Jesus. Settling nearby, Peter warmed himself by a fire recently kindled in the midst of the courtyard. Someone recognized him, a maid, who exclaimed to his embarrassment, "This man also was with him." But he denied it.
Before the interrogation of Jesus ended that evening long ago, a second person and then a third also recognized Peter as one who also followed Jesus. That third time really got to him. Someone insisted, "Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean." Peter responded forcefully with a measured and passionate statement, "Man, I do not know what you are saying."
It was Peter who first confessed, "You are the Christ." It was such a high and spiritual moment. The air seemed filled with rapturous joy as this revelation of who Jesus really is captured the imagination of all of the disciples. But now, like a straying sheep, Peter found himself grasping the sword when Jesus was arrested, and cutting off the right ear of Malchus, a servant of the High Priest.
We can imagine the intense emotions that Peter was struggling to contain and to understand; the billowing, stormy waves of confusion cascading in the mind of this closest associate of Jesus; the heart of a man who desperately wanted to be close to Jesus in this terrible hour but couldn't because he was not yet filled with perfect love. And now, at this third time, Peter's retort, "Man I do not know what you are saying," the cock crows, and the Lord turns and looks at Peter. And Peter remembers the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times."
And Peter left the warm fire in the courtyard and the warmer, loving eyes of Jesus to find a place where he could weep his bitter tears.
Peter reflected a long time on that evening before he wrote the Epistle we read from today. But 30 years or so of apostolic preaching and prayer prepared Peter to write about suffering, and relationships and how to conduct ourselves in a Christian way in both. That's why he could write about Jesus so movingly and such things so convincingly. Like this that we heard in the second reading:
Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.
It is Peter who helps us to understand just how much Jesus wants to heal us from the inside out. So that when we face uncomfortable and sometimes hostile situations we can be like Jesus. That we might follow in his steps and respond without guile on our lips. But when we hear that Jesus, led like a sheep to the slaughter, opens not his mouth, we are challenged. That whole eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth thing wants to take over more often than we want to admit. But Christ took our sins - our hatreds, our prejudices, our sour and pitiful power charades, our arsenal of weapons of massive self importance, our blindness to the image of God in us and our neighbors - Christ bore all of these sins in his body on the Tree. To heal our souls. To rid our hearts of the dark blots, our wretched blindness, and our self ingratiating opinions.
The great mystery of the Christian religion is that we find salvation in the wounds of Jesus. For we are healed and redeemed not by corruptible things like silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ. He himself bore our sins on the Tree so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Indeed, he is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. By his wounds we are healed.
And we all said, "Thank you, Jesus."
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com