2nd Sunday of Easter 2019
Acts5:12-16; Rev 1:9-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
It is a truism—but bear in mind that the first thing about a truism is that it is true—it is a truism that the risen Christ is the wounded Christ: after His resurrection, Jesus still bears the marks of the nails and the spear.
Why should this be? His risen body is different in certain ways—He can pass through locked doors, He can appear rapidly in different places, He is not immediately recognised by people who know Him, He will eventually ascend into heaven—yet the holes in His hands and feet, and the gash in His side remain. The Father, had He wished, could have removed the marks of the Passion, restoring His Son’s body to pristine unwoundedness, yet He did not do so. Why did He choose this route?
The first answer, I suppose, is that the wounds help establish the identity and the reality of the risen Christ. As He Himself is reported by St. Luke as saying “A spirit has no flesh and bones as you can see that I have.” This is the real person: the disciples are not seeing a ghost. As soon as He appears the risen Lord shows His wounds, and at His return to the Upper Room on Low Sunday, He grants Thomas’ wish for more than visual proof. Thomas need not simply look; he is also to touch.
Is there, though, more to it than mere proof of identity? “By His wounds we are healed” we read in the First Letter of St. Peter, and those wounds continue to exercise their healing force. The risen Christ will never forget His wounds—will never be without them—and those wounds will continue to provide their healing power as long as this world lasts.
Michel Quoist, the French priest and spiritual writer beloved of my generation of university students, was fond of the quotation (possibly from Pascal, though I stand open to correction on that) “Christ is in agony until the end of time”. Even though Christ is risen, He continues to suffer in His body, the Church; His wounds will continue to throb so long as human beings go through agonies whether physical, mental, or spiritual.
It is because He is the wounded Christ that the risen Christ is able to be COMPASSIONATE, “suffering with”. He is a God who is not merely merciful: He is a God who has borne the pain and the anguish of human life; who literally bears the scars. Because of those scars, His capacity to heal is unbounded, because He is not looking in from outside, but is sharing the pain from within.
As it is for Christ, so it is for us. One of the most popular and most powerful of recent spiritual writers was Henri Nouwen, one of whose books is entitled “The Wounded Healer”. Only when we share the woundedness of Christ can we share His capacity to heal, because we too can be compassionate. It is not true, as Nietzsche claimed, that “whatever does not kill you makes you stronger”—there are some forms of suffering which cause permanent damage to the spirit and the personality no less than to the body—but without suffering we shall always lack genuine strength.
Have the wounds of the risen Christ anything further to teach us? It is after showing His wounds that the Lord repeats the words “Peace be with you”, that He breathes the Holy Spirit into the apostles, that He sends them, giving them their mission of forgiving sin. From woundedness comes true peace: in woundedness is the Holy Spirit imparted, and the capacity to bestow that healing forgiveness which comes from God but which takes its human aspect, not merely from the formula of the sacrament, but through, in, and with compassion.
Further, it is through touching the wounds of the Redeemer that Thomas is able to utter his great proclamation of faith “My Lord and my God”. The wounds of Christ evoke faith in the divinity of Christ. May the risen yet still wounded Christ be our source of healing, of compassion, and of faith.