This is the final week of an Easter series on the Resurrection. This week, we encounter the Risen Jesus with the Marks of the Crucifixion.
By: Rev. Robert Wagner, Secretary to Bishop Loverde
One of the many beautiful devotions gifted to the Church is the honoring of the five wounds of Jesus: the four wounds found where the nails pierced His hands and feet, and where the lance was thrust in His side after His death. When Jesus appeared to the Apostles on Easter, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side (Jn 20:20). This must have affected the Apostles deeply. Likely, they must have excitedly told Thomas of this; otherwise, why would Thomas have demanded to put his finger in the nail marks on Christ’s hands and place his hand into the wound in Christ’s side?
Everyone who encountered Jesus after the Resurrection must have noticed that His glorified body retained these wounds of the Crucifixion. This itself would be cause for wonder, but even more so that the wounds remained not as scars, but as torn flesh, which Thomas’s fingers and hands could probe and examine.
Why is it that Jesus chose to retain the wounds of such a gruesome death, a death that His Resurrection powerfully defeated? We might readily consider wounds, or even scars, as imperfections of the skin. Why, then, do the marks of His Passion remain in His perfect glorified flesh when Jesus could have chosen not to have them?
As in all things, when we look for the reasoning behind the actions of God, the best place to start is with the answer, “He did this for me.” God never needs to act to help Himself. Instead, God is love and therefore His action is self-giving love directed towards our salvation. With this in mind, we can assume that Jesus chose to keep the wounds of the Crucifixion in His glorified body for our benefit. So how are we helped by encountering the wounds of the Risen Jesus as His disciples did?
Firstly, the wounds of Jesus are a proof of His identity. When Our Lord showed his hands and side to the Apostles on Easter, they rejoiced because the wounds verified that the man in front of them was truly the Risen Lord (Jn 20:20). A legend tells us that the devil once tried to fool Saint Martin of Tours into worshiping him by appearing to the saint dressed in fine clothes and jewelry, and claiming to be Our Lord. Martin spotted the devil’s ruse immediately, saying, “Where are your nails marks? Where is the wound in your side? When I see the marks of the Passion then I will adore Him.” Without the wounds, Martin knew it was not Jesus.
However, the wounds of the Risen Christ are more than just a means of identification. Rather, they are integral to who He is. Jesus cannot be separated from His wounds, even in His glorified body, because His wounds continually show us that He is Our Savior. The Risen Lord Jesus kept the marks of His sacrifice, which freed us from our sins. He carried in His Resurrected flesh the marks that prove that He, too, knows our physical and emotional suffering intimately, and through His victory our suffering may be transformed as a means of salvation for ourselves and others. Jesus bears the wounds of the Cross in His glorified body for all eternity so that we may experience the power and depth of His love for us when we meet Him in the flesh, just as Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Thomas, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul did when they encountered the Risen Lord on this earth.
We may believe we lack the opportunity to encounter the Risen Lord here on earth as these saints did. However, Our Risen Lord appears to us at each Mass — body, blood, soul, and divinity in Holy Communion, wounds and all. While Saint Thomas could probe these wounds with his hands, we can experience them even more intimately by entering into them with each reception of Holy Communion. Perhaps we can meditate on this great mystery the next time we receive Our Risen Lord at Mass.
As we seek to encounter Our Lord in the life of the Church, especially through the sacraments, prayer, and Scripture, may we always remember the wounds He bears, for they are the marks of His love and our salvation.