Sunday, April 11, 2010

In touching Christ's wounds, we touch our own; we are healed, and our faith is restored (Sunday in the Octave of Easter, John 20:19-31)

On the evening of that first day of the week,when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,for fear of the Jews,Jesus came and stood in their midstand said to them, “Peace be with you.”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”But he said to them,“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his handsand put my finger into the nailmarksand put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again insideand Thomas was with them.Jesus came, although the doors were locked,and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,and bring your hand and put it into my side,and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

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“There are some hurts that go too deep”. Towards the end of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien put these words in the mouth of his character Frodo.

There’s been a lot of “disbelief” this past week in the Gospel readings: Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, (yesterday) the entire group of was “rebuked” by Jesus for not believing Mary’s news to them. And today we hear the famous story of Thomas, doubting, proclaiming for everyone to hear: “Unless I touch his wounds, I will not believe”. Why all the doubting?

“There are some hurts that go too deep”. Some wounds are indeed so painful, deep, and hurtful that they seem to create a veil covering our eyes, preventing us from seeing anything past the wounds themselves.

Could this be the reason Mary Magdalene herself failed to recognize Jesus at the tomb, and thought instead that he was the gardener? Could this be the reason the two disciples on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize Jesus even as he walked and talked with them? Could this be the reason the apostles refused to believe Mary? Could this be the reason Thomas wanted to see the nailmarks on Jesus’ hands and put his hand on his wounds?

It is a known fact that when a person experiences a tremendous tragedy, it casts a dark cloud over him, and for a time, all he can see is pain and sorrow, and refuses to believe there can be anything beyond it. It is not uncommon to hear someone who has lost a loved one say or wonder:
“How can I go on?”

Life loses a lot of meaning when we’re in pain. Thomas’ doubt was not the result of a stubborn heart nor a questioning mind. It was the result of a pain too deep, the pain of having lost his friend, his Master who had been his life, and reason for living during the three years of Jesus’ ministry. The pain of loss was too intense that it prevented him, just like the other disciples, from believing that Jesus had risen, that Easter had come, that his friend came back to life.

Thomas himself was wounded, deeply broken. And yet, today, as Jesus allowed him to see the nailmarks on his hands, and put his finger and hand on his wounded side, Thomas received the healing of his wounds, and a lessening of his pain.

Often when we hear the story of Thomas, our attention is focused on his doubt. But the real focus of the gospel is not his doubting. It’s just the lead-on to the real point: the restoration of his faith, the fact that he was made whole—because Jesus allowed him to touch his own wounds, and in touching the wounds of Jesus, Thomas touched his very own woundedness, his very own brokenness.

In touching Christ, in holding onto Christ, Thomas was made whole. Thomas’ sorrow was healed. Thomas’ faith was restored. The words Jesus spoke to Thomas in today’s gospel are the same words he speaks to each one of us here today. None of us is spared the wounds, hurts, and brokenness of life. We’re all broken and wounded and pained, and sometimes, like my Thomas, we can feel that Easter has still not come.

And that’s why Jesus speaks those words, not only to his disciple, but to us: “Put your finger here and see my hands, bring your hand and put it into my side”. Let us bring our woundedness, our brokenness to Christ.

Touch his wounds, for in doing so, we will find healing, we will find our faith, our confidence, and our trust, restored. Just like Thomas, our Easter too shall come.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)