“Making a gift of our wounds” is a most peculiar phrase for a piece on Ascension Sunday. Had I not listened to Father John Paul Mary’s homily on the EWTN daily mass this past Thursday, the phrase would never have occurred to me. But the more I ponder the words of the priest, the more I understand.
A brief aside-until the churches closed, neither my husband nor I had never participated in a television mass or heard of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. Now a day without these Friars and their sacraments spilling into our living room-consecrating our home- is unimaginable. A most surprising gift of these strange times we are living in.
Fr. John Paul began his Thursday morning homily by reading an excerpt from a letter from a grief-stricken woman in Oceanside, California. Easter was supposed to be a time of overwhelming joy and celebration but she felt no gladness, only unrelenting sadness. Her husband had died and his body lay in the morgue. There could be no funeral and her grief was raw and terrible.
Looking directly at the camera, Fr. John Paul said slowly, emphatically, and with authority, “You are not alone. All members in the Mystical Body of Christ are praying for you. Christ, our Head, is with you.”
Turning to his left, he pointed to the extraordinary profusion of roses sent in response to the Friars’ request for a rose garden for Our Lady. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th, 2020 would viewers send a single rose? Indeed they did: over 6000 roses arrived at that chapel from all over the world.
The priest said, “This is gift. There is no way the Friars and I can express our gratitude for your love of Our Lady, EWTN and for us.
With a smile, he added, “But there is joy too!” How can we look at those roses and not feel joy? Or the night sky with its millions of stars?
“Listen once again to His words to the Apostles-and to us” he said:
“A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.” Some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, `because I go to the Father’?”
They said, “What does he mean by `a little while’? We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’?
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.John 16
Since it was Ascension Thursday, Fr. John Paul described the perfected resurrected body of Christ as perfected and resurrected but retaining all of His wounds:
Fr. John Paul explains: “Jesus retains all those wounds as gift to Our Father. See Father what I bring you? Look at my head, my feet, my hands and side.
“Justice has been done. I have overcome the world. By these wounds, Humanity has been restored to its rightful place as your sons and daughters.
“I have conquered sin and death for they are the same.”
And I think of what I know-what we all know about joy and sorrow, they are one and the same. Long ago, I memorized the words of Kahil Gibran, even in those dark years of atheism, I understood the truth of his words.
On Joy and Sorrow
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
I think of the story of a man prostrate at the foot of the cross. His heart overflowing with contrition, love, sorrow, repentance, and overwhelming desire to give the Lord something… anything.
“Lord, I give you all of my works.” He had written many books which had made him wealthy.
From the cross, he heard, “I gave you the gift of knowledge and understanding so that you could write those books, they are my gifts to you.”
“Lord, I give you my health, vigor and intelligence.”
From the cross, he heard, “These also are my gifts to you, my son.”
“Lord, I give you my loving family, my children and wife.”
“Could you not know I have given these people to you? They were chosen by me-for you.”
After many more failed attempts, the man sobbed, “Lord, what can I give you?”
“Your sins, my son, give me your sins!“
May each one of us seven and a half billion souls learn-yearn- to make a gift of our wounds to Him.