Pentecost Sunday • Year C

Paul W. Galetto, O.S.A.
Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Acts 2:1-11
Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13
Jn 20:19-23

Have you ever thought of having an extreme makeover? Maybe not an extreme one, just a nip here or a tuck there. How about looking into a face lift or a little work on your nose or lips? As for me, all I want is some hair on the top of my head! It would be so nice!

Today’s readings mention the human body: tongues in the first reading, the body and its parts in the second and the hands and side of Jesus in the Gospel. I don’t know about you, but if I were resurrected from the dead, I don’t think I would keep any wounds that I had and I certainly would have a full head of hair. Why did Jesus keep the wounds? This question is a great starting point for personal prayer.

I thought about my own wounds and the more I reflected on them, the more I realized they made me who I am and (I believe) the person God wants me to be.

The most obvious wound that I have came about because I had a heart transplant. There is a scar in the center of my chest that reminds me every time I see it of how blessed I am. It is a great source of thankfulness. My woundedness has caused me to reach out to others. For the last three years, I have worked in hospitals at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. I dedicate myself to visiting those who are waiting for transplants and those who are recovering from surgery. My presence gives them hope. I know from my personal experience that there is much trepidation heading into surgery and that recovery is fraught with hurdles and challenges. I invite the patients to put their hands in my wound and to realize that it will be okay. I give them the strength they need to forge ahead and to walk this perilous journey. This ministry of healing has done as much for me as it has for others. I never want my wound to heal and go away.

Another wound I had happened while I was working in Nigeria. I was serving a parish in a remote section of the eastern part of the country; the locale was somewhere in size between a village and a town. A priest from Ireland and I were the only two white people for several hundred miles. There was a place to buy things (to call it a store might give the wrong impression about its size) and I walked from the church to the shop and along the way I fell into a hole; the pathways are not paved nor well marked. There was a group of Nigerian teenagers nearby and they started laughing and making fun of me when they saw me fall. I was deeply wounded by their action. I promised myself that day that I would never want anyone to feel the shame and pain that I felt. When I became a principal of an all-boys secondary school, I was an advocate for those who were bullied by their classmates. My first reaction was to let them put their hands in my wound and to realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They can use this painful moment for good and to transform the suffering of others. I would reach out to the student who bullied and let him know how disappointed I was and how wrong his actions were. I realize my wound was a source of healing for others.

There are many people who have died and have taken a piece of my heart with them –
the wounds are too numerous to count. Each wound is like a chasm; there is an emptiness that is only filled by the hands of those who also have felt profound loss. In talking to someone who has lost a loved one, we share our common pain; we suffer together; it is more than just sympathy. How beautiful it is to realize we have been loved and to realize that someone has changed my life. Tears are the surest sign that you have loved and that you have been loved. I wouldn’t erase these scars because they are so precious.

Imagine the wounds of the family members of the twenty-one killed at the school shooting in Texas. How deep is the pain of the community in Buffalo, NY as they process the senseless killing of innocent people shopping in a supermarket? Countless people are now wounded because they loved these innocent victims so profoundly. These wounds that are now so painful can lead to resurrection and new life if we as a nation address the root causes at the source of this evil.

What do you do with the wounds of your life? Do you pass on pain or do you try to heal? Have you become a wounded healer? Do you have financial wounds? In your poverty have you helped others because you know the pain of loss? Do you have wounds of insecurity? Are you compassionate to those who are hungry or homeless? Do you have wounds of loneliness? Have you ever reached out to the homebound, the elderly or those who have lost loved ones? Do you have wounds of humiliation? Do you console those who tried their best but did not reach their goal or those who have been the victims of malicious gossip? Or do you subscribe to the philosophy that if you are hurting then everyone else should be hurting?

On Good Friday, one of the phrases that always draws my attention is “By His wounds we were healed.” I think I now know why the resurrected body displayed the wounds so openly. When you understand them, when you know their history, you know that they are the marks of loving or of having been loved.

It is this love that the tongues of the Apostles proclaimed on that first Pentecost. The reason all those people from different lands and languages understood the Apostles was because the followers of Jesus spoke the language of love. Everyone understands love. It is love that makes all the parts of the body work together to become the one body that is the gloriously wounded body of the resurrected Christ.

It is with His wounded body that Jesus bestows the Spirit, the Paraclete on his followers. Through his wounds we realize that this Spirit is a Spirit of Love, of Wisdom, of Healing. Pentecost is a time when we realize our sufferings, our pains, our losses and our wounds are a call for us to give the Spirit of Love to others. We are called to sympathy and compassion. These wounds are a gift because they help us realize we have been loved and they we are called to love again. Let us follow the example of our Savior and give the Spirit of love to those in need. By our wounds, we and others are healed.