Why are you troubled? In tonight’s Gospel passage, Jesus asks that question in a very particular context.  Jesus had been unjustly tried, horrifically tortured, even more grotesquely crucified, abandoned, and left dead in a tomb.  Three days later, risen from the dead, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples in the Upper Room, the two on the road to Emmaus, and now again, He appears amid the disciples.  This roller-coaster course of events has got to be a lot to take in.  Yet He simply appears in their midst – and says, “Peace be with you.”

Thanks so much for stopping by to read this homily for the THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER – April 14, 2024.  I appreciate your sharing this on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim

Peace was just as much a struggle for them as it has been for all those who came before them and continues to be for humanity to this day.  God knows this about us; that is why He tells us over and over again, “Do Not Be Afraid” or “Fear not” throughout the Bible … He knows we have a problem with fear.  To help ease their minds, Jesus eats with them – clearly showing that He is not a ghost  – yet it’s clear He’s not like the rest of us who haven’t experienced the resurrection.   So the word Jesus uses to describe the people in the room seems appropriate – troubled… why are you troubled?   I imagine the disciples thinking, “Why are we troubled?… after all that’s happened.   How can we not be troubled?”

Here in this space, some thousands of years later – in this liturgy where the Risen Christ is real, is present both in this Word being spoken and soon in the bread and wine becoming His Body and His Blood, Jesus asks you and me the same question:

Why are you troubled?

It’s not:  Are you troubled – it’s why.  The reality is that every one of us has things that trouble us, frighten us, and even terrify us.   Is it something in the short term?  Maybe an exam.  Maybe it’s more than just an exam in a course; maybe it’s a medical exam that you or someone you love is going for.  Is it life questions?  Where am I going with my life?  Where is this relationship going?   Why do I feel so alone?  Why does this thing still hurt so much that hurts so much?  Is it about someone else?  I’m worried about my mom and my dad.  What can I do to help my brother or my sister?  The less control we feel, the more troubled we become.

There’s a reality that many of us experience: we do a great job of hiding, dodging, and deflecting whatever it is that troubles us.  It’s awful to feel troubled.  It takes a lot of emotional energy from us.  At the same time, in the fast-paced world where there’s a premium on all things pleasurable, where we are bombarded with messages, alternatives, and options that promise us pleasure, the unspoken thing that many of us can pick up on is that most people don’t want to know, and won’t ask Why are you troubled?   For some, that might be because they feel unable or ill-equipped to do anything about it.   Others, maybe they’re afraid that in asking someone else about their pain – that pain, the place they’ve buried the things that they’re troubled about will burst open, and not only don’t they want to deal with your troubles, they most certainly don’t want to deal with they’re own.

This reminded me of a story from a few years back.  This giant sculpture of a crucifix – the image of Christ on the cross – was removed from outside of a church in England after one of the clergymen said it was disturbing to people.  The 10ft sculpture crucifix, which had been mounted on the front of St. John’s Church (in West Sussex) since the early 1960’s, was, according to parish leaders, “a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering” which was “putting people off and scaring children.” In its place is a plain, stainless steel cross.  The leaders of the Church said that in surveys they had conducted on the crucifix, the results came back with every comment about the sculpture being negative.

One of the ministers of the Church continued to explain their rationale: “Children have commented on how scary they find it, and [parishioners remarked] how off-putting they thought it was as a symbol outside the Church.  As the key exterior symbol for us, it made people more uncomfortable than having a sense of hope, life, and the power of the resurrection.” So, the sculpture was removed from the Church and mounted on a wall on the grounds of a Museum.  The museum curator observed it was a compelling image of Christ in pain that, “Today isn’t an image that a lot of churches want to follow.  They’d much rather see an empty cross where Christ has risen,” he said.

Pain and suffering are indeed troubling.  The image of Christ crucified is troubling.  But for Easter to make sense, for the Resurrection of Christ to become real to you and me, and for us to become people who can become the witnesses that Jesus calls us to become in this Gospel- witnesses to the supernatural, life-changing things that come from the Resurrection, we have to face these things and deal with these other things.  More accurately, we have to allow Jesus Christ to enter our lives and help us face and deal with these things – trusting that He who has come back from the dead can do just that.

Consider something:  over the last few Sundays we’ve heard amazing things about Jesus Christ risen from the dead in the different Gospel accounts.  Jesus, in his resurrected body, can get into these locked rooms without a key and seems to appear and disappear with relative ease, sometimes without even saying goodbye (who knew, Jesus was one who liked “the Irish Goodbye” 🙂 ). He seems to vanish from their midst (which is why people think he’s a ghost), Yet He makes it very clear and says to them No, I’m not a ghost – touch me and feel that I am flesh and bone; watch me as I eat (he seems to like Fish a lot).  So, there He is in this glorified body, which enables Jesus to do all kinds of things that we can’t do.  And yet, there’s one small but important detail we hear about –

He still has the wounds on Him.

The nail marks that pierced his hands and feet were still there.  Did God the Father forget to fix that?  I mean, if you’re raising your son from a horrific death like that, you would think that you’d want to clean up all those wounds, those marks.  Why doesn’t he erase those terrible reminders of what happened?  Maybe those wounds are there for a reason.

Why are you troubled?  Jesus asks in the Gospel — and then He makes a point to them to say – look – see my hands and my feet… It’s almost like Jesus saying – I haven’t forgotten what Good Friday is like – and – I know you are going through your own Good Fridays.  I see your pain.  I see when you’re brokenhearted because someone hurt you.  I know the pain you are in because someone you love is dying or has died.  I know how lonely this world can be where you feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts and feelings and think that no one in the world knows or understands OR EVEN WORSE – NO ONE CARES ABOUT what you’re going through – what you’re suffering with…  I know when you’re feeling abandoned, I know when you’re feeling alone, I know when you’ve been abused.  I know what it’s like to feel completely broken.  I know you’re troubled.   I know you have questions.  I haven’t forgotten how that feels.  I haven’t forgotten you.

And as our first taste, first experience of the resurrection in our own lives, He tells us when we turn away from our lives of sin, when we bring to him all the things that make us feel unloved, unworthy, he tells us you are Loved,   you are worthy, “Be forgiven.”

We look to the wounds, we look to the image of the crucified one in this season of Easter joy because we can relate to the wounds, relate to the crucified one.. we who are experiencing Good Fridays in our own lives… and see that true victory is there as Jesus comes in the midst of that and offers us His peace.   And as we turn to him, embracing those glorified, pierced hands of His – we are with the ultimate “winner,” trusting that he is with us, we become faithful witnesses that from the horror of Good Friday – Easter Joy, Easter Hope – NEW and ETERNAL LIFE  is born.  So we look at the crucified one, we remember those wounds not as defeatists, but to remember that what God has done for His beloved Son, He will do for us, His beloved sons and daughters.

If we believe that and have faith and trust in that, could we have any greater sign of hope and victory than lovingly,  beholding the crucifix, and like the apostles, embracing with joy those wounded but victorious hands and feet—that come to bring us the good news, that with Him, we have no reason to be troubled?