“Thomas said, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ Then Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’” (John 20:25, 27)
April 27, 2014
Second Sunday of Easter
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“A water-bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and one-half pots full of water to his master’s house.
View Archives »
“Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
“After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream. ‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.’ ‘Why?’ asked the bearer. ‘What are you ashamed of?’ Replied the desolate pot, ‘I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to the master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.’
“The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, ‘As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.’ Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.
“The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.’” (Original source unknown)
This parable gives new definition to what it means to be called a cracked pot—crackpot in more common parlance. While Merriam-Webster describes such a one as “a person who is crazy or very strange, one given to eccentric or lunatic notions,” the tender parable invites deeper reflection. And in light of our Christian faith with its solid rejection of many cultural values, we might even say that a crackpot has a head start on the road to sainthood! Indeed, we might say—and rightly—that Jesus is the crackpot par excellence!
As today’s gospel passage begins, we are invited into a scene of brokenness: Jesus is thought dead following his crucifixion; the disciples are locked away in terror, fearing for their very lives; Thomas struggles palpably against doubt. But then the very one who was assumed dead is suddenly, mystically with them, this cracked pot whose life-blood flowed from mortal wounds onto Golgotha’s dust and out across all humanity. “Peace be with you!” Jesus proclaimed.
He is not dead! He lives! Still, though, visible wounds and the seepage of blood mark the reality of human suffering and attest to the truth of death by crucifixion. How could this be? The disciples stand amazed!
Now, as the gospel recounts, Thomas was not in the room when Jesus first appeared, and when told of what had transpired, he refused to believe. “Thomas said, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’” (John 20:25) A week passed before Jesus appeared once again to the disciples, Thomas now present. “Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’” (John 20:27)
Only then, with and heartfelt confession—“My Lord and my God!”—could Thomas profess belief that one once so broken could now be so alive.
The fractured pot bitterly lamented, “This crack in my side causes water to leak out.” The water-bearer gently replied, “I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. Without you being just the way you are, the master would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”
A cracked pot leaking life: it’s who Jesus is, and it’s what he continues to do for us. Becoming fully human (save for sin), he lived among us, teaching us with every parable and admonition how to give our fractured humanity to God’s good use, teaching us that our brokenness can become life-giving for both ourselves and others.
This Easter day, let us examine closely our own wounds, those of body, mind and soul. While we surely lament our brokenness, yet we trust that God holds us gently, attentively, in his merciful heart. Let us then give ourselves to God’s good use that our thirsting world might find in us refreshment and healing.