Monday, April 20, 2020

We will see the wounds of Jesus for eternity, and that is a good thing.

In the resurrections accounts of Jesus where he appears to his disciples as they are hiding from the authorities, John’s account of this event has him giving us a certain detail about Jesus which does not appear in any of the other three synoptic gospel texts. It is only here that we see the wounds of Jesus being mentioned, and it is significant.

Most of us are familiar with the context of why Jesus makes a specific reference to his wounds in that account.  It was to directly address Thomas’ very specific articulated need for him in order to fully believe in the resurrection.  Jesus appears a week later to the same group, this time with Thomas present, and makes it a point to meet Thomas’ conditions which he set for Jesus, after which he falls on his knees and openly declares Jesus “my Lord and my God”. 

Many things have been said about this.  About faith, one can conclude that there is really no need for proof if one really has faith, and that if proof is given, faith becomes redundant.  If one thinks about it with some depth, Thomas’ declaration made after his conditions were met doesn’t really make Thomas’ faith in Jesus remarkable at all.  Yet, haven’t we personally either met unbelieving people or even baptized people who in their lives have asked for some proof from God in order that their faith be strengthened? My response to them is often that the value of their faith is of far more merit having not seen any proof than if they do get the proof that they are asking for.  Jesus’ response to Thomas makes this very same point when he says to Thomas “blessed are those who do not see and yet believe”.

Thomas was clear about what would make Jesus the “real deal” when he appeared to him – it is all about the wounds. And I would give him some credit for it. After all, he could have just said – “let me see Jesus”, or “let me hear him speak”, or “let me see him work one of his awesome miracles”.  But he didn’t.  For Thomas, it was his wounds that would show for a fact that it truly was Jesus who had risen from the dead.  Why the wounds?

I think we need to get under the skin of not Thomas, but John, who wrote the gospel.  John is called the apostle Jesus loved, and so he was.  John had such an intimate relationship with Jesus his master and Lord (recall that it was John who laid his head on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper) and in this resurrection account, he wanted to convey that what really demonstrated that Jesus is every person’s ultimate lover and savior, is that he died for us.  His wounds are his visible demonstration of his tremendous love for us.  The wounds of Jesus are for John, Jesus’ badge of honour - they are a statement of the extent that he went to show us he meant business when he said that God loves us with no conditions and no limit.  He had Thomas sum this up in his wanting to see the holes that the nails had made, and his being able to put his hand into Jesus’ wounded side.  Those wounds are not just the visible proof that it was truly Jesus.  Those wounds are a visible proof of his love, and of God’s love for us.

As well, those wounds are a demonstration of God’s divine mercy writ large, simply because Jesus doesn’t use them to inflict guilt but to elicit love.  Those of us who have all sorts of wounds because of love that is unrequited and unreturned, or love that had been spurned and betrayed often hold these wounds with so much vengeance and want some form of revenge from those who had inflicted them on us.  If we are honest, these wounds that we bear in our hearts aren’t often handled well, and as such, we can end up using them as weapons that inflict a similar or worse pain on others.  

But in this gospel text, John wants to show that the wounds of betrayal, unrequited and unreturned love and ingratitude need not be used in any negative way.  In Jesus, God has a better way.  

Jesus would have been fully justified if he appeared and threw a hissy-fit in front of his disciples who left him to die in such an inglorious way on Good Friday.  Jesus would have been justified if he kept score of who had hurt him most.  But instead, he did just the opposite – he greeted them with peace, and gave them the power to forgive, just as he had forgiven them for their inability to love when it was most needed.  This is love demonstrated at a divinely high level, and Jesus doesn’t only want it to be received by his disciples alone – he wants every person to receive it and to understand its immense power, and more importantly, to give this same kind of unconditional and non-vengeful love towards their enemies and persecutors.  

There is a wealth of writings by saints as well as meditations on the wounds of Christ.  They reveal so many things about the nature of God and the redemptive power of humble suffering.  I’m afraid that we don’t open these treasures enough to reap their benefit in terms of power to forgive and that there are tremendous positive outcomes for people when they see that suffering is a vocation that can help to redeem souls.  

If there is one striking difference between Catholic spiritual sentiments and that of our separated brethren, it is that on our Crosses, the scourged, bruised and nailed body of the dying Jesus is always on it.  This corpus is always missing from a Protestant cross.  Their reason for the missing corpus is that the resurrection has happened and the empty cross stands as a testimony of God’s power over death.  

While that is true, it is also true that it is the agonizing passion that Jesus went through that resulted in the death and the subsequent resurrection to take place.  A frequent reflection and appreciation of the wounds of Jesus serve to remind us to never take God’s love for granted, and serve as a strong deterrent to not want to give in to sin and give reasons for those wounds to have been lovingly endured by Jesus.  

When it is our time to see Jesus at the end of our earthly journeys, we will fully appreciate that it is the wounds of Jesus that paved the way for us to experience heaven’s embrace.  Because Jesus will always have those wounds on him, we will also always be reminded of the price that he paid for us to attain heaven’s reward.  

Heaven is indeed made possible through those holes in Jesus’ hands, feet and side.  

1 comment:

  1. Fr Luke, thank you for this post.
    Though not with eloquence, if I may humbly share that a frequent reflection and appreciation of the wounds of Jesus, awaken our senses and open our eyes to our enternal purpose. We fear death but yet death is a just a milestone of a soul, a passage to our heavenly banquet.