Third Sunday of Paschaltide
The Incendiary Gospel
“Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us. When Thou speakest, make our hearts burn with love” (cf. Lk 24:32). Who but the Word can open the Word to us? In His light we see light; only in the light of the Paschal Candle — that is, of the Risen Christ — does the light of the Scriptures become apparent. The breath of Christ fills the words of the Holy Gospel with spirit and life (Jn 6:63).
The liturgic Gospel — the Gospel proclaimed in the midst of the Church and making Christ present — fills the heart with fire. “Behold,” He says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them, says the Lord, the God of hosts” (Jer 5:14). The disciples at Emmaus said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Lk 24:32). The proclamation of the Holy Gospel is always incendiary: a devouring fire in the heart of the Church.
The Gift of Peace
In today’s Gospel Our Lord offers us two gifts, and He expresses two desires. The first gift is peace. “Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be upon you!'” (Lk 24: 36). We ask for this peace in every Mass before Holy Communion: “O Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Thy apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you, look not on my sins, but on the faith of Thy Church and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with Thy will.” This is the peace that comes over a troubled heart when the words of sacramental absolution are pronounced. The peace that Christ offers is His very own: a peace that flows out of His life of communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Christ’s peace carries us upward; it flows back towards its origin and source in the bosom of the Father. In the Second Reading Saint John said: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 Jn 2:1). Every advocate seeks to win peace for those whom he represents. Peace, then, is the first gift of the Risen Christ.
The Holy and Glorious Wounds of Christ
After this first gift, Our Lord expresses His desire: “See My hands and My feet” (Lk 24:39). Jesus would have us contemplate His holy and glorious wounds. The wounds of the Risen Christ are the glory of the Father and the joy of the Church. The wounds of Christ are the indelible sign of His everlasting priesthood and the remedy for our wounds, fountains of healing for us, springs of salvation. “Repent, therefore,” says Saint Peter, “and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac 3:19). Turn again? Turn whereto? To the holy and glorious wounds of Jesus Christ. There is a very simple form of contemplative prayer in which the risen Christ applies His wounds to the wounds of the soul. It is an operation of naked faith, a wordless contact in the darkness. It touches the secret unexposed places deep within, concealed well below feelings and concepts.
Rest in Wounds of the Saviour
Listen to Saint Bernard: “Where shall the weak find a safe rest or a secure refuge except in the wounds of the Saviour. I have sinned most grievously but I am not confounded because I will call to mind the wounds of my Saviour. For He was wounded for our sins. What sin can be so much ‘unto death’ as that it cannot be ‘loosed’ by the death of Christ? Therefore no disease however desperate, shall have power to drive me to despair, if only I keep in mind so powerful and effective a remedy.”
Christ Our Priest
The wounds of Christ are not only our healing; they are the glorification of the Father as well, and this, throughout all eternity. Our Eternal High Priest presents Himself before the Father’s face. He says to the Father exactly what He says to us: “See my hands and my feet.” The Father, reads the immensity of His love in the depths of His wounds, and in the wounds of the Son the Father is glorified.
Our Lord to Sister Marie-Marthe Chambon, Visitandine (1841-1907)
My daughter, recognize the world’s treasury. . . the world does not want to recognize it. If anyone is in need, let him come with faith and confidence, let him draw constantly from the treasury of My Passion. Here is all that is need to pay one’s debts.
One must not be afraid to display My Wounds to souls. My Wounds are the simple and easy way that leads to heaven. In the contemplation of My Wounds one finds everything for oneself and for others.
My daughter, where are saints made if not within My Wounds? The fruits of holiness come forth from My Wounds. Just as gold purified in the crucible becomes more beautiful, so too must you put your soul and the souls of your sisters in My Sacred Wounds; there they will be made perfect like gold in the furnace.
The sinner who will say the following prayer: Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Wounds of Our Lord to heal the wounds of our souls, will obtain his conversion.
This then is the first desire that Our Lord expresses today: that we should contemplate His glorious wounds, even as the Father contemplates them in the heavenly sanctuary where Christ is living forever to intercede for all who come to God through Him (Heb 7:25).
A second desire follows the first one: “Handle me,” He says. Jesus wants us to touch Him eucharistically. It is not enough for Him that we should gaze upon His wounds, Our Lord would have us touch Him so as to sanctify our flesh by contact with His saving flesh. The most human of all desires is the desire to be touched. The newborn child seeks to be touched, so too in extreme old age one seeks comfort and healing in the touch of another. In the risen Christ, this most human of all desires — the desire to be touched — has become the most divine of all desires. “Handle me,” says Jesus.
How are we to respond to this desire of the risen Christ? First, know that so often we open the book of the Scriptures, so often as we kiss the sacred page so full of His presence and open our hearts to His message, spiritually we touch Him, allowing Him inwardly to touch us by His words. Second, so often as we open our mouths to receive His Sacred Body and Precious Blood, we respond to His desire. “Touch me,” He says, and so that we might really touch Him, day after day until His coming in glory, He said: “Take this, all of you and eat it: this is My Body, and take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of My Blood.”
Third, what is true of the Eucharistic Body of Christ is equally true of His Mystical Body. So often as we stretch out our hands in compassion, in the act of giving, in reverent tenderness, in chaste affection, in humble service of the least among us, we touch the Body of Christ. We respond to his desire: “Touch me!” “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40). The Body of Christ, bruised and buffeted, disfigured and bloodied, waits to be touched in His members; the glorious and glorifying Body of Christ waits to be adored, touched, taken and eaten in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Peering Through the Trellis
And finally, a second gift: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24: 45). The words of the Scriptures form a kind of trellis, a lattice work behind which we discern the adorable Face of Jesus Christ radiant with the glory of the Father. “See where he stands behind our wall. . . he peers through the lattice” (Ct 2:9) says the bride in the Song of Songs. Scripture is the mysterious face of Christ turned towards all who seek Him. The Church is fascinated, magnetized, polarized by the Face of Jesus Christ shining in the Scriptures. Week after week, even day after day, in the liturgy we celebrate, in the psalms we sing, we learn to discover the Face behind the words. . . and the Heart beneath the Face, and this very discovery is His paschal gift to us. Do we not pray in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord” (Ps 4:6b).
Two Desires and Two Gifts
Two desires and two gifts. Have we opened our hearts to receive Our Lord’s gift of peace? Have we risked encountering Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms? Do we use the eyes of faith to gaze upon His wounds holy and glorious? Our hands, are they stretched forth to touch Him and to be touched by Him in the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood and in the suffering members of His Mystical Body ? May this paschal celebration of two gifts and two desires enable us to say with Saint Augustine: “I tasted Thee and I feel but hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou didst touch me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is Thine” (Confessions X, xxvii).