Apr 11, 2021
Flawless perfection. Our God is often understood to be flawless and perfect: In the fifth chapter of Matthew, we are reminded to “be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” and later in 1 John chapter 4 we hear of the power of “perfect love” and in 1 Corinthian of how Jesus is the “perfect man” In the Psalms and Proverbs we hear how the “word of the Lord is flawless” and in Deuteronomy we hear “flawless is the work of the Rock” and in 2 Samuel “the promise of the Lord is flawless.” And we hear throughout Leviticus over seventeen calls for offerings and sacrifices to be “flawless.” Flawless perfection— all powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfect love.
God— God’s rock, God’s word, God’s love — who we understand to be Jesus Christ is flawless perfection. Jesus is fully God…and also fully human. Jesus’ human frailties and vulnerabilities are also real and don’t change his perfect nature.
In our Gospel for today we encounter the Risen Christ— one with the power to move through locked doors and breathe out the Holy Spirit, and yet one who is still known by his wounds on his hands and his side.
Ponder with me a moment: since God could raise Jesus from the dead to eternal life, could not Christ’s risen body also be completely healed from the wounds of his Passion? Since God could re-make the whole of the kosmos and harrow hell and break down its gates, could not God also re-make Christ’s risen body. Why not have the Risen Body in a way that forget the agonies and humiliations of the Passion, as if they too banished into being that which is not? I believe God could, and so it was an intentional choice that the risen body of Christ is known to all by the wounds in his hands, feet, and side.
In the wounds of Christ, we know that it really is him, the one who having loved his own, loved us to the end. In the wounds of Christ, we have a God who remembers and bear witness to the way of love. In the wounds of Christ, we know that the wounding is not the end of the story. Humanity is given hope for our own wounds.
In my experience of being human, I know that there are wounds that do not heal completely. Yes, they can become scars, their deep rawness can be covered over, but we cannot go back to who we were before the hurt, before we lost what we lost, before we suffered what we suffered.
This is in part what it means to be human and to be vulnerable, that we can be hurt, we can be changed irrevocably by our tangles with life, by our desire to care, by our misfortunes and missteps, by our doubts and fears, by our love for others. In body and mind and spirit, we have too have wounds.
In our Gospel, Thomas, who was called the Twin, one of the twelve shows us his spiritual wounds— the gaping hole of doubt in his own side. And Jesus responds, “Put your finger here and see my hands, reach our your hand and touch my side.” Christ’s wounds become a source of healing for Thomas spiritual wounds.
Our wounds will not end us and are not the end of the story for Christ’s wounds did not undo him but became flawlessly and perfectly part of him. They become marks of triumph and a place of healing. As Henri Nouwen writes about so powerfully in his book, Jesus is The Wounded Healer who shows the way that through embracing our own wounds we to can follow in Jesus way of love and become a source of healing for others.
As it was for Thomas, Jesus does not offer us a logical argument to think our way into belief. Jesus offers his wounds: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
It is as though Jesus were saying, if you really want to discover God’s way of love for the world, be redeemed by it and praise God, Alleluia, with your whole self— then the way, the truth, and the life is through these wounds. And is not today’s Gospel story in a sense what happens in the Eucharist each Sunday? Jesus comes near to us, undeterred by any locks and closed doors, breathing his peace among us: Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us. And we are invited to touch, to see, to taste, to know him for ourselves. Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread, in a body broken and wounded. And my prayer for us all is that experiencing the risen Christ — perfect and wounded— we might join with Thomas and cry out in recognition and praise: “My Lord and my God.”
I am going to close this day, once again, with a sonnet by one of my favorite modern day poets, Malcolm Guite from his collection “Sounding the Seasons” It is called “St. Thomas the Apostle”:
"The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine." The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.