Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
A pastor was giving a lesson to a group of children on the 23rd Psalm. He noticed that one of the little boys seemed disquieted by the phrase “Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” “What’s wrong with that, Johnny?” the pastor asked. “Well,” answered Johnny, “I understand about having goodness and mercy, for God is good. But I’m not sure I’d like Shirley following me around all the time.”
Easter is a season of joy. Alleluia is the Easter song. So we would suppose that the stories of Jesus’ Easter appearances would be consistently positive and joyful. They are in large part that way. In today’s gospel, for example, Jesus appears in glory, the disciples rejoice, he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, and assists Thomas in overcoming his doubt. All this is positive. But not everything is joyful. There is a shadow in the midst of this joy which prompts us to ask, “What are the wounds doing there?” Why does the body of the risen Lord still retain the wounds of his passion? Is not Good Friday over? Is not Easter a new beginning? Why then do the nail marks and the gash in Jesus’ side remain?
Now this description of Jesus’ risen and yet wounded body, as all things in the scriptures, has an application to us and is written for our benefit. Jesus bears the wounds of his suffering because he is human like us. Woundedness is a part of the human condition.
Now perhaps, some of you here today cannot think of any scars that you bear from the years you have lived. But most of us here carry wounds that we can point to. Thiruvalluvar Tamil poet is thought to have lived sometime between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century BC. He says, “Theeyinal sutta punn ullaarum aaraathe naavinaal sutta vadu” – it means, “The wounds of fire would vanish with time but the wounds caused by words never.” Wounds that came from words that people spoke to us in anger or hatred and still sting. Words that we spoke to others and would give anything to take back. Some of us have been marked by anger or fear or doubt in our childhood or later on in our life, and our bodies still bear the marks of those cuts in certain circumstances and with certain people. Some of us have made mistakes or disastrous choices, and even though we have moved past them, the effects of those choices still follow us and still influence us.
There are parents here who wish that they could have done some things differently. There are children here who wish that they could take some things back. There are friends here who wish they could start over, and family members who yearn for another chance. But the truth is, life seldom gives us another chance. Most often we have to move forward with our woundedness and take our scars with us.
We are like Jesus in our humanity because we bear the marks, the woundedness of life. We are also like Jesus because we bear the glory of God within us. In our faith we know of God’s mercy and forgiveness. In our trust in Jesus we know that we are sons and daughters and called to eternal life. So like the risen Christ, we bear together the woundedness of our humanity and the glory of God’s love. The risen body of Jesus invites us to embrace this strange mixture. We would love to be able to erase all of our scars and wounds. But that is seldom possible. Instead the risen body of Jesus invites us to accept those things that we cannot change. It invites us neither to ignore or to fixate on our wounds but instead believe that even though we cannot completely erase them, they will not negate the power of Jesus’ resurrection. We are called then to accept both our woundedness and our glory.
In fact, our very woundedness can be used to help others. Jesus uses his woundedness to help Thomas. He asks Thomas to touch his wounds and by doing that leads Thomas from doubt to faith. We can, at times, use our woundedness for the sake of others, our brokenness to heal others. There is no better person to comfort someone who has lost a child, than another person who has lost a child. It is only the person who has really messed up, who can understand and assist someone who has failed. It takes an alcoholic to help an alcoholic. If we can allow others to touch our woundedness. That touch can give them hope and life. That is perhaps why God allows our wounds to remain. Not to embarrass us, not to shame us, but to provide a way that we can give life to others.
We stand in the glory of Christ’s resurrection. It is a glory in which we share, but our wounds remain. The risen body of Christ tells us that that will always be the case. Let us then proclaim the glory with all of our strength, but use our brokenness to heal the brokenness of others. In that way those who are lost may see in our wounds a way forward and discover in our failures the power of God’s love.