One of the great treasures of our faith are Christs’ Glorious Wounds. The Counter intuitive Jesus’s risen Glorified Body still bears his wounds. These glorious wounds of Jesus – divinely resurrected – humanly wounded…. Are a mystery that is worth pondering and praying over. This is the same man who hung on the cross – yet now he is different. Why keep his wounds? If he has defeated death – why still carry the holes in hands and his feet – the terrible wound in his side….
Of all the post-resurrection narratives this encounter with doubting Thomas is one that we can especially sympathise with – Thomas has been devastated by Jesus’ death – he loved him – he left all he had to follow him… his sense of loss is bewildering. As they say, once bitten twice shy, he doesn’t want to get his hopes up just because the others are talking about ‘seeing’ him, he isn’t going to be taken on that emotional roller-coaster again. We have all been their – we have been hurt, let down, sometimes it is hard to trust again. Thomas’s reaction is beautiful in its humanity – the struggles with faith, the dark clouds of doubt that can sometimes seem to accompany us, all of this is so real to us.
But note Jesus’s reaction – his gentleness – the intimacy – he doesn’t scold Thomas – no impatience with him – no wagging his finger at him. Jesus knows that he is upset because he loves him. ‘ Here are my hands – Touch my side’. If we think of the wounds of his passions – the holes in his hands and feet were he was nailed to the cross – it is perhaps the wound in his side that is most significant. The Romans wanted to see if he was dead – they broke the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus – but with Jesus – so as not to break his bones as Isaiah had prophesied – the centurions lance had opened his side and pierced his heart – and blood and water had flown out from his side, baptising the Centurion.
This encounter with Thomas shows forth the power of Jesus’s mercy – ‘Doubt no longer but believe’ ….. and that this wound, particularly on the side of Christ – which Thomas was invited to inspect with his fingers …. This wound became very important in the development of Christian devotion. In the first millennia of the church the devotion to the Holy Wounds grew – but it wasn’t until the twelfth century that that grew into a devotion to the Sacred Heart in the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries. The wound on the side of Christ – gave us access to the heart of Christ – it revealed to us his sacred heart, full of Love for mankind.
At the beginning of the twentieth century – The Polish mystic Sister Faustina reportedly had a series of visions & inner locutions (conversations with Jesus) . She was declared a Saint of the new millennium when her compatriot, John Paul II canonised her in the year 2000, thus showing official church approval for her claims of mystical experiences. Perhaps the most important of those was in 1931 – in the short lived peace between the devastation of the Two World Wars. Faustina wrote that Jesus appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart and was asked to paint this image. Further instructions to venerate the image came including the desire to mark the first Sunday after Easter as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. Which the Pope also officially declared at the start of this millennium.
Perhaps what is most instructive an entry in Faustina’s diary – where she was told that – Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to the Divine Mercy. In these times of terror and widespread fear, particularly for many Christians around the world – we feel the need for peace. In the Extraordinary Year of mercy – we are asked like Thomas and Faustina to find peace and healing in the wounds of the risen Christ. That our own wounds and our woundedness does not make us bitter, angry, isolated but that they too can be transformed into channels of God’s grace.
As Simon touched Jesus’s wounds – we are invited in this Holy Year of Mercy to invite the Lord to touch our wounds…. Instead of finding more and more inventive ways to hide our wounds from him, to pretend everything is fine – that we can cope – let’s remember those who couldn’t hide from Jesus or society and their encounter with him. The lepers whose wounds were so obvious – no makeup could disguise their rotting bodies. As they presented their disfigured flesh for Christ to touch and cure, we can present our disfigured souls, asking him to touch and to cure. St. Faustina would say that all that is necessary is for us to leave the door of our heart ajar and God will do the rest. Then in astonishment and joy we can reply as Simon did, ‘My Lord and my God!’
This is the transforming power of Easter – this is our hope in the resurrection – represented by the beauty of the light of the Paschal Candle here amongst us.
Homily Given in Holy Name Manchester – 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday – April 2nd 2016