“Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side” (Jn 20:20).
On Easter evening, the risen Lord, appearing to His Disciples in the Upper Room, behind closed doors, after having given the Easter fruit of Peace, He showed them His hands with nail marks and His open side pierced by the spear of the Roman centurion.
It is striking that the resurrected and transfigured body of Jesus, despite having definitively overcome the bonds of death, free from the laws of nature, to the point of being able to enter a room behind closed doors, still bears evident the signs of the Passion. Many great artists have not escaped this detail and, when they paint the Risen One, they also highlight the eloquent wounds of the Passion.
How can we not look back with faith and affection to the great prophetic exclamation of Isaiah: “by His wounds we were healed” (Is 53:5)?
We could affirm that the distinctive trait of the risen Jesus, which makes him unequivocally recognizable, are by now the wounds imprinted indelibly on his body.
On several occasions, Psalm 117 reaffirms: His love endures forever! The glorious wounds of the body of the risen Jesus are a tangible testimony: truly His Love, His Truth and His Mercy last forever, they are eternal. For as the Holy Father reminds us in Fratelli Tutti n. 227. “Truth, in fact, is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy. All three together are essential to building peace; and each, moreover, prevents the other from being altered…”.
For eternity the Son sits at the right hand of the Father, as our Advocate, and shows His glorious wounds in our favour: it is through those open wounds that, as if we now have “open doors”, God’s mercy flows upon us and that we can access the Mystery of God. It is the Blood flowed from those wounds that washed us from our sins and regenerated us as children. In the Eucharist feast of the Church we can incessantly draw from those wounds, from that Precious Blood: the infinite endless love of the blessed Trinity.
When Thomas returns to the Upper Room, his friends welcome him joyfully, announcing Jesus’ visit: “We have seen the Lord!”.
Thomas’s reaction: “If I don’t see the marks of the nails in his hands and I don’t put my finger in the nail sign and I don’t put my hand on his side, I don’t think so” such doubt leaves us dismayed, almost disgusted by the crudeness of his words. And yet, those harsh expressions, while showing the difficulty in believing, at the same time reveal that the Apostle has grasped an essential element: the wounds of the body of Jesus speak of Him, reveal His identity, the greatness of His Love for us. We can no longer ignore the wounds of the Passion.
Jesus accepts Thomas’s prayer and appears again to the Church, gathered on Sunday in the Upper Room, showing once again His glorious wounds. He asks His friend to take another step: “no longer be incredulous, but a believer”. At those words, Thomas passes from interior combat to interior peace, from unbelief to faith: “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas’s incredulity providentially anticipates our difficulty in believing. Thomas lived, before us and in our favour, the interior battle between trusting the Easter proclamation and pretending to have a physical experience of the Risen One. Jesus declares blessed those who welcome the proclamation of the Gospel and adhere with faith to the certainty of Easter, even without having seen with the eyes of the body.
Let us ask the Lord, the First and the Last, the Living One (Rev 1:17-18) to be amongst the blessed, to pronounce His powerful and redeeming words over us, which snatches us from the jaws of death to life, and allows us to pass from unbelief to faith: “no longer be an unbeliever, but a believer”.
* Custody of the Holy Land
Fr John Luke Gregory ofm*