Fourth Sunday of Easter: “The Wounded Healer”
Lectionary Readings: (taken from the meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP)
- Acts 2:14, 36-41. Peter, on Pentecost, preaches that “the whole house of Israel should know… that God has made both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you crucified.” The people must reform and be baptized.
- 1 Peter 2:20-25. Peter continues his baptismal instruction that the newly baptized follow in the suffering footsteps of Jesus, who brought our sins to the cross. By his wounds we are healed.
- John 10:1-10. The opening section of John’s well known “Good Shepherd” discourse. Jesus is the shepherd whose sheep go in and out for pasture.
Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez
The first reading and the gospel passage firmly affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord. Calling Jesus Lord may not sound surprising to us and in fact it may sound a bit cliché. However, when Peter made this pronouncement in first century Jerusalem it would have jarred many and angered many others. To call Jesus Messiah or anointed one would not have been a shock as other have already been deemed anointed ones of God and others would come afterwards. But Lord was a title reserved to God, for the apostles to be able to declare that Jesus is Lord means that they were aware of an amazing truth that they were willing to make such a dangerous and socially unsettling statement. It is said that if you wanted to examine amazing miracles in scripture the greatest for one to investigate is how a rag tag band of Galileans could have mobilized one of the most powerful religious movements ever seen based on an almost insane report that an executed criminal was in fact God.
In the first reading we see the beginnings of this miraculous movement and we are told that after Peter makes this irrational declaration “about three thousand persons were added that day.” It is the ongoing pursuit of the theological community to consider “how could this have happened”? “How did they experience the resurrected Christ and furthermore how were they able to convey this in such a way as to convince others to believe in this bizarre message? One clue that we are given is in the passage that immediately follows the first reading and which we read about a couple of weeks ago. This pronouncement was visually depicted in a new communal style of living that was consistent with the healing and hospitality ministry of Christ. This week’s gospel passage tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord and Jesus attempt to describe this based on the relational and compassionate image of the good shepherd. But let us not forget that Jesus also tells us that “not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21)
The second reading helps us to make a link between the declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord and our responsibility in becoming living agents of this declaration. Through the example of Jesus we are called to be wounded healers to a world that is immersed in suffering and injustice. Peter gives us the challenge to take on the suffering of the world and to be ministers who heal by sharing in the suffering of those we encounter. Our hope in suffering springs from Jesus since it was “by his wounds [that we] have been healed.” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that this call bears a social responsibility to be present and responsive to all who suffer in our society:
The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. – Spe Salvi #38
Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote a wonderful little book called “The Wounded Healer.” This book offers us some insights into how we can be ministers of suffering especially in these times where many suffer specifically from the isolation that comes from our individualistic culture or the condition that he calls “nuclear man.” In order to accompany others in their suffering Fr. Nouwen instructs us to journey through our own sufferings and isolation so that through our own wounds we too can offer a sincere healing. We heal by relating at a very deep level to the suffering of those we encounter. We speak of social issues like poverty, immigration or criminal justice but until we can integrate through our own experience the isolated feelings of marginalization (which at some level we all experience in different forms) then we are not addressing these issues at a Christian level.
Christ healed us through his wounds. Christ heals us because he undertook our journey of isolation and injustice and through him we can enjoy the hope that comes through His redemptive suffering. This hope becomes our wellspring through which our own suffering can offer others a vision of redemption. The reason Peter’s words brought him converts rather than ridicule was because his message of redemption through Christ was not empty words but a living reality that people could also see within the communal experience of a people whose wounds and weaknesses were healed by the living God who shared in their suffering. To fully comprehend how people could have responded to what they heard in Acts 2:36-41 it helps to also understand what they saw in Acts 2:42-47.