I'm a little late in posting Fr. Don Hying's reflection from the Second Sunday of Easter, but his words about the wounds of Christ and how we can still find them in ourselves and in others today are timelessly powerful. This reflection was originally published in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.
Carravagio's artistic depiction of this Sunday's Gospel scene is very graphic in detail. The risen Jesus stands directly in front of an amazed Thomas while he calmly and gently guides the apostle's quaking finger directly into his chest wound. The Second Sunday of Easter always presents us with the same narrative-Thomas coming to faith by touching the wounds of the risen Christ.
These crucified wounds of Jesus stubbornly remain even after the glory of the Resurrection and the Gospel authors make a point of commenting on them. What do they mean for us, both spiritually and theologically? These gaping holes in the body of the Lord of Life remind us of the grittiness and realism of Jesus' Incarnation and crucifixion. God became an authentic human being in the person of Jesus. He worked, prayed, cried, sweated, got hungry, was tempted, knew fear, suffered torture and underwent a terrible death. In all of this, God completely identifies himself with our humanity.
In prayer, I often hear Jesus saying: Are you tired, angry, sad, fearful, joyful, grateful or grieving? I completely understand all of your emotions and experiences because I have felt all of those things, too. As we contemplate the wounds that life has inflicted on our spirits and hearts, we can take comfort in the deep wounds of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
Placing his hand into the side of Jesus brings Thomas to faith and peace. The wounds of Jesus have become the source of our healing, comfort and strength. Humanity tore holes in the body of the Son of God and what spurted forth? Not hatred, vengeance, condemnation or violence. Only the water that represents the power of baptism and the blood that is the reality of the Eucharist.
Through the sacraments that flow from the death and resurrection of Christ, we are washed clean, nourished and sanctified in the grace, love and mercy of God. As the Exultet at the Easter Vigil proclaims, to redeem a slave, God gave away his Son. As believers, we can take refuge in the wounds of Christ, knowing that it is precisely in that hidden place of divine vulnerability that we will encounter forgiveness, mercy and understanding.
Since the church is the mystical Body of Christ and Jesus has united himself to every person, we can still discover and touch the wounds of Christ in the lives of the people around us. Every person who is lonely, sick, hungry, poor, sorrowing or dying is Jesus in his distressing disguise. Do we dare to leave our comfort zones and actively seek the wounded Christ in the byways and corners of this broken world?
To re-enact Carravagio's painting, we must let Jesus guide our fearful hands right into the sacred places of suffering and pain if we hope to come to faith in the risen One. This radical identification between the crucified torture of Christ and the myriad and horrible facets of human suffering is a fusion of love which the saints understood to the core of their soul.
Every spiritual hero we honor in the church loved the poor in a very incarnational way because they knew they were literally touching the wounded body of their Savior and Lord. Francis of Assisi with the lepers, Mother Teresa with the dying, Vincent de Paul with the poor and countless others lived this mystery out with a terrifying realism and a love without conditions.
On this Second Sunday of Easter we also commemorate Divine Mercy and witness the beatification of Pope John Paul II. All of these events, characters and memories find their meaning and force in the crucified yet risen Jesus Christ whose victory over death answers all of our questions about life and whose wounded vulnerability invites us to open our weakness to his strength.
Could it be that in the end, people actually forgive us for our strengths, but love us for our weaknesses? That our neediness and failures, embraced in faith, have the power to lead others to the very wounds of Christ?