April 26, 2017
This past Sunday at our local parish, the pastor posed a question while sermonizing on "doubting Thomas": Why did the risen Jesus, with His new and glorified body, still possess the wounds of his crucifixion? He touched on the topic, then moved on, but the question bounced around in my mind until today. I was listening to another Catholic podcast this morning when that very question was addressed, so let's chat about it.
Why did Jesus rise with His wounds?
As Weronika put it, "the man who bears within himself so effortlessly all of Reality" comes back from eternity, where he has reached beyond the confines of life and death, yet he returns bearing on His royal body proof of human frailty. Why?
Jesus is a humble, subversive Messiah, because that's what we have always needed. How many Israelites expected a powerful King to come in power and splendor to rescue them from Roman oppression? The true Christ came quietly as an infant in a stable (or cave, apparently). Can you imagine the disciples' internal struggle between magnetic attraction to the human-divine Christ and their disagreement with His methods? How many thought, "Now this itinerant, poor preacher Jesus Christ has died and risen, and surely this is Act II. He must be back to fulfill all of the expectations many thought his initial ministry lacked." They asked to free the revolutionary Barabbas instead of Jesus, after all.
Aspects of the risen Christ certainly feel more "divine" (entering locked rooms, disguising himself in plain sight)... but then again didn't he perform miracles before his Passion? Still, he bears the wounds of His crucifixion, hardly the crown and scepter brandished by an omnipotent deity.
Today, we know definitively that Jesus Christ is the example for all humanity to follow. Every action of Jesus carries a double weight: its initial effects on his disciples and followers, and then as an example to be imitated by his followers throughout eternity. Should he have been a strong, mighty ruler or an exacting judge, the example would have been the vocation for all Christians forevermore. Instead, he bears the marks of the nails and the lance, the marks of submission to the Father.
I think the crux of the matter is our view of Glory, which ultimately determines our view of the Kingdom of God. Everything Jesus does is for the glory of the Father, so Christ's wounds must glorify the Creator. How?
The wounds of the risen Christ tell the ultimate story of redemption. These wounds tell of the Father's mercy, that he would let His Son bear our sin and pain. They tell of Christ's love for us as Suffering Servant and Savior. They tell of Christ's humanity, helping us to trust that He truly understands what it is to suffer. They tell of Christ's humility, how he submitted to human cruelty, reminding us that even worldly victories mean nothing if they do not glorify God. They tell of Christ's power to overcome even death.
Perhaps most importantly, they tell us that we can be Jesus to others. They tell us that healing does not consist of forgetting or ignoring, but uniting our suffering to Jesus and proclaiming God's victory over the wounds of our past. What was inflicted during our darkest moments becomes our most powerful testimony. The adage "God writes straight with crooked lines" is seen to its glorious pinnacle, giving us hope and confidence that our imperfect stories of redemption can lead others to proclaim, "My Lord and my God!"
Because of the risen Christ, we no longer need fear our wounds. He bears them as well, and they soften the doubting heart.
Praised be Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.