What’s so striking about all the resurrection narratives is that there is not a hint of resentment in the one who was lynched and murdered. Not once does Jesus say to those who were complicit in his murder, “Hey fellas, what gives? You really hung me out to dry there. How about at least an apology?” No frown, no scoul. No wagging finger of disappointment. Instead, as in today’s text, Jesus comes into the locked room and stands among those who abandoned him in his hour of need and says, “Peace be with you.”
But notice who speaks the word of peace. It is the one who still bears the wounds of the crucifixion and this, it seems to me, is vitally important. The risen Christ is never wound-free. He will forever be the lamb who was slain. One of the marks of an authentic encounter with the risen Christ is that Christ always comes to us bearing wounds – his and ours.
As if moved by this intuition, Thomas insists on a direct encounter with the risen Christ – one that will transform his own experience of pain. It’s not enough for Thomas to simply see the risen Christ. He must touch the wounds. And so must we if we want to be healed. This daring encounter calls forth the most definitive declaration of Jesus in the Gospels. Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God” (vs.28).
The Ground is Shifting
But let’s be honest, touching the wounds of Christ is not without its risks. It exposes our own wounds and opens us up to the possibility of further trauma. This can be terrifying for those who have not known the touch of mercy. This is why we are so desperate for faith expressions and faith leaders who know the touch of mercy at the point of their deepest wound.
One of the most enduring lessons I’ve learned from vulnerable urban communities is that everyone, rich and poor, is deeply wounded and carries a burden that is impossibly heavy to bear.
If we are honest, we know that none of us escapes life without sustaining injury that threatens the very core of our existence. Perhaps this is why we, as a culture, are growing impatient with expressions of faith that heals our wounds so lightly, or worse, denies them altogether. This, I believe, is at the heart of what’s happening with the rapid decline of organized religion in North America. There is a wholesale rejection of religion that does not deal honestly with the human condition and our woundedness. I know there is real loss in this for many, but I see this as a sign of hope.
Denying and Suppressing Wounds
Any faith expression that does not dare to touch the wounds of Christ denies the power of the Gospel to heal the wounds of the world. Denial and suppression of wounds pushes suffering underground where it gathers energy and resurfaces in the form of violence, usually towards others who are vulnerable. As Father Richard Rohr says, “If we do not transform our experience of pain, we will surely transmit it.” Herein lies the mystery of the cross. Jesus not only exposes the cycle of violence. He puts an end to it and sets us free.
Thankfully, God seems to be raising up a new generation of leaders inspired by Thomas. I am thrilled to see this. The Gospel is alive and well. What appears to be the crumbling of organized religion is really the resurrection power of Jesus at work, giving birth to new life. Yes, wounds become wombs of new creation, bearing seeds of new life, when touched by mercy. What’s needed are midwives who, themselves, have been touched by God and are skilled in the arts of mercy. And that is exactly what is happening, even now.