HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: “TOUCH ME!”
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
One night, Steven Spielberg was seen drinking in a bar with a Chinese guy. After some time and several bottles of beer, Spielberg suddenly punched the Chinese guy in the face. The guy was surprised, and asked, “What’s that for?” Spielberg said, “That’s for bombing Pearl Harbor.” The man protested: “You idiot! Those were the Japanese. I am Chinese!” But Spielberg replied, “Whatever! Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese. They are all the same!” After a while the Chinese guy kicked Spielberg. “Why?” he asked. The guy replied, “That’s for sinking the Titanic!” “What? It was an iceberg!” protested Spielberg. The guy replied, “Whatever. Iceberg, Carlsberg, Lindbergh, Spielberg. They are all the same!”
No two people are the same, not even identical twins. Every human being is unique. But the recent advancements in the medical sciences are trying to undermine this truth. The advocates of the science of cloning are telling us that it is very possible to duplicate human beings. The human tissues and organs can be duplicated. The DNA can be duplicated. They can produce an exactly the same human person. However, they are gravely mistaken. Though it might be possible to duplicate the body and all its organs and tissues, it is not possible to duplicate a human being. Nobody can duplicate the principle of life and individuality of man, which is the soul. It is impossible to clone the soul.
And a human person is composed of both body and soul. If it is only body, it is just a corpse – ready to be buried. If it is only soul, then it must be a ghost. A human being is both body and soul. We should, therefore, avoid dichotomizing man. We cannot talk of a human person without taking both body and soul together. Jesus Christ is true God. And he is also true man. He is both divine and human. As man, he has both body and soul. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples many times. In the Gospel account this Sunday, he made sure that they understand this. “Why are you troubled? It is I myself. Touch me.” Then, as further proof, he even asked for food: “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of fish, and he ate it in front of them. He clearly made sure to them that he is not a disembodied spirit or a ghost.
Today’s Gospel rejects that spirit-body dualism. After his resurrection Jesus demonstrates he is not a “ghost” or a spirit without body. There is a tendency today to dichotomize Jesus: to separate the divine Jesus from the human Jesus, the bodily Jesus from the spiritual Jesus. The people of today prefer a “spiritual Jesus” to the flesh and blood Jesus.
Of course to “spiritualize” Jesus can be attractive to a lot of people. A spiritual Jesus is confined in the realm of the spirit. It keeps him at a safe distance from us, so he does not interfere in our plans and in our life; but he is always there when we need him. Many would prefer a “Jesus-on-call” (“Don’t-call-me-I’ll-call- you” arrangement.)
But an over-spiritualized approach to Jesus misses the truth: He desires that we touch him; that we contemplate his five wounds; and that we eat his body and drink his blood. That is, after all the reason for the Incarnation. We may find it rather strange that Jesus, in his appearances after his resurrection, insisted on his physicality, the reality of his body: “Touch me!” Well, the reason is that he does not want us to put him aside to some distant spiritual realm. He desires not just a spiritual relationship with us, but also a physical one: physical and spiritual union – a “spousal union.” He wants to espouse us. He is the Bridegroom, and we, the Church, are his Bride. As St. Peter tells us, he is the “author of life” (Acts 3:15), and he invites us to share that life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). And this is precisely why Jesus gave us the sacraments: that we might connect and relate with him on the material and physical as well as on the spiritual level.
This tendency to dichotomize Jesus reveals also a clear tendency among us to dichotomize man. Many people want to separate their spiritual life from their daily life, their religious life from their life in this world. They are the so-called “split- level Christians”, the dual-life Christians. They want to brush aside the commandments with a simple rule of thumb: As long as my spirit is right (that is, I feel good about myself) it does not matter what I do with my body. As the words of a famous song says: “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right. ‘Cause you, you light up my life.” I can do anything I like as long as it feels good inside.
This Sunday, Jesus calls us to be authentic in our life and in our relationship with Him and with one another. Let the words we speak reveal the truthfulness of our hearts and minds. Let our actions express the purity of our intentions. Let the beauty of our bodies be the reflection of the inner beauty and splendor of our souls. And let this also be the way we look at others. We cannot continue looking at people and judging them by their external appearances alone. A human person is more than the physical body we see. He is both corporeal and spiritual. Lest we forget, Jesus identified himself with the poor, the neglected and the rejects of society: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” ( Mt 25:40).
St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God is glorified when we live our lives to the full. Let us live as true human beings, created in the image and likeness of God. We have bodies, but with souls. So we are not corpses. We have souls, but with bodies. So we are not ghosts. We are human beings, men and women created by God and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, destined to share in the eternal life and glory in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422