On this crisp and beautiful day in Holy Week 2018, the new St. Joseph’s church in Balgonie, surrounded by the wonderful hoarfrost on the trees, stands where the previous St. Joseph’s church stood. That church burned down in February, 2002. The corpus - the body of Jesus - on this cross, was in that fire, and it ended up in the heap of rubble left behind. In sorting through that rubble, someone came upon the cross, and seeing that it wasn’t completely destroyed, put it in the parish garage, where it stayed for several years, till the pastor mentioned it to a fine wood sculptor, Maurille Hammond, of Shaunavon. Maurille was brought in to see the cross. The cross itself was almost completely destroyed, but the corpus, while charred and covered with soot, was actually in pretty good shape; amazing, considering that it was made of wood, and everything around it was reduced to ashes. Maurille’s skilled hands gently removed the soot, going gently in order not to break anything. He treated the wood, restored the damaged corpus, and after it was attached to a new cross, it was ready to give back to the church in Balgonie, where it now hangs once again.
It happened that I was on a 30 day retreat in Shaunavon at the time when Maurille had just finished restoring the cross, and I was allowed to bring it into the place where I was staying, so had the privilege of spending many hours praying in the presence of this cross. It spoke to me powerfully of my own wounds, and the way Jesus’ love, revealed most profoundly on the cross, brought healing.
A while back, Pope Francis caught the attention of the church and the world when he wrote, “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” The fact is, we are a church that is bruised and hurting, even when we don’t go out onto the streets, because it is who we are.
St Paul invites us to speak of the Church as the Body of Christ. Well, the body of the Jesus that is the church is no less scarred than this corpus. We are a wounded lot, and because of those wounds, at times we also wound others. Friends, we do well to approach the momentous celebrations of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, with a profound gratitude for the way in which the Lord has entered into human brokenness and sin, proclaiming God’s mercy, and binding our wounds, forgiving our sins. We do well to stand in awe at the way that God enters into the very darkest places of human existence, where evil and ignorance, arrogance and fear, have taken hold, and stands alongside us and all who are wounded, there in the rubble of our lives.
It is of boundless importance that the resurrection happens there: bringing hope where hope had been vanquished, bringing forgiveness where it was not deserved or expected, bringing forth life from the tomb, so that Jesus can draw and hold us to himself with a bond of love so tight that it can never be undone. From the ashes, Christ promises to bring us to life too, to bind our wounds, to restore us and make us whole. And he sends us forth as his disciples to bring that hope to others, and through our presence and our actions, to help heal the wounds of our suffering brothers and sisters, in his name. This Easter, let us welcome the crucified and risen Jesus into our lives with joy, and let us give ourselves fully to his great work of transforming and restoring a wounded world longing for a mercy which can rise even from the ashes. Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!