My Lord and My God
Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday). fr Leon Pereira tells us how through his wounds Christ heals all our sorrows and transforms them to glory.
When someone we love dies, it is like we have been betrayed. I do not mean that we have been betrayed by God. I mean it feels as if we have been betrayed by the person who has died.
What I mean is when you love someone you share your heart and your mind with them, and you do so with an ease and a joy as if this state of affairs would continue forever. But a day will come when we have to continue without them. And there will most likely be those moments when we think of something amusing or exciting, and think, ‘Oh, I must tell so-and-so about this’ and then we realise with an awful crushing feeling that they are no longer there for us to tell them. And all the things you shared with them which used to give you both joy, all the things you delighted in together now serve as so many painful reminders, reminders that they are gone, that they are dead.
The apostle Thomas feels this. To the cruelty of knowing that Jesus is dead, the other apostles seem to be adding a new cruelty, what seems to him to be the silly hope that Jesus may be alive. The apostle Thomas is not a modern liberal who denies the literal physical resurrection of Christ, and prefers to see the Resurrection as the revival of some kind of hope among the disciples, as the possibility of new beginnings. The Resurrection Thomas hopes for is the literal physical one that actually happened – but Thomas’s problem is that he cannot see how this Resurrection could cancel out the sorrows Jesus during His passion and death.
So Thomas reminds the other apostles of the hellish death Jesus had undergone: ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.’ For Thomas the pain of Jesus’s death and the pain of his own loss seem to be insurmountable. The pain of grieving will get better in time, but Thomas fears he will always know the loss and the silence of Christ’s death. Can any healing surmount such sorrow?
The apostles gather out of fear in the Upper Room. They gather as frightened and bereft men, and the doors are shut. But a power greater than them is at work, and the Risen Christ appears in their midst. Jesus fulfils Thomas’s wish and makes him touch His wounded hands and feet, makes him touch His most Sacred Heart. And it is in touching Jesus that Thomas’s doubts vanish. The Risen Jesus does not pretend that His sorrows never happened – but here Thomas can see and touch the marks of those sorrows, yet they are not sorrowful any more, but glorious.
The same Risen Jesus who told Mary Magdalene not to cling to Him forces Thomas to touch His wounds. Noting this difference, the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal remarked, ‘The Risen Christ does not want to be touched, except in His wounds.’ Why? Because it is from His wounds that His saving powers – the seven holy sacraments of the Church – stream forth upon us. And His wounds show us the truth that there is a healing for all sorrows, one which does not pretend they never happened, but a healing which draws us through and beyond all sorrows, which glorifies us and makes us live again in our bodies, unable to suffer or die, and forever able to love and to rejoice.
Because Jesus is risen, we are not left alone. Because Christ has overcome death, our own grief at death will be broken. Because Jesus has come back from the dead, the pain of our loss will be healed. We are not left as orphans because Christ is alive in His Church. Just as Thomas touched Christ’s wounds, so we touch the same life-giving wounds of Christ in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist. From the altar we too receive our Lord and our God, the Living One whom Thomas touched, the One who took flesh for our sake, to heal us.
Readings: Acts 5:12-16|Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19|John 20:19-31
The image above is from the medieval polychromed choir screen of Notre Dame de Paris.