And yet without one set of scars...where would we be?
2014 ☼ Good Friday (two days ago) ● Father Kevin J Forsyth
“Our Wounds: The Best Parts Of Who We Are” ©It is a fact: the wounds Jesus suffered on His Cross remained as the scars by which His friends recognized Him after His resurrection.
The first reading speaks of a nameless figure in Isaiah’s prophecy – a “Suffering Servant,” who became identified with Jesus in Christian belief. “He was pierced for our offenses,” writes the prophet; He was “crushed for our sins.” Our second reading puts a slightly different spin on Jesus’ death: He died out of sympathy for our weakness, it insists, and He learned from what He suffered. Jesus learned human lessons from what He suffered - interesting. What lessons are we learning from suffering?
We know that Jesus’ story doesn’t end on Calvary. However sincerely we offer our homage to His Holy Cross, we know that there’s another chapter yet to come. And that chapter has a curious twist. In most Easter Gospels, no one sees Jesus. His friends just find an empty tomb. His followers don’t encounter the Risen Christ until later. And in the Gospel of John they recognize Him only when they see His wounds! Jesus even invited Thomas – who was not with the others at their first meeting – to put his fingers in the wounds on His hands and his hand into His side. Throughout the centuries, Christian art has continued to picture the Risen Christ with scars!
It is a mystery of faith that when Christ rose from the dead He retained these five wounds in His glorious body. Saint Thomas Aquinas offers 5 reasons why Christ chose to retain His sacred wounds in glory taking the first reason from Saint Augustine’s writings and the latter ones from Saint Bede’s writings.
First, because the wounds proclaim the glory and the victory of Christ! They are his achievements! Secondly, Christ retained His wounds in glory, in order to confirm the disciples in their faith and hope of the resurrection, and so give them courage to suffer for His name. “I overcame this; you can overcome too!” Third, Jesus retains His wounds in glory, so that He might constantly present them to the Father in heaven supplicating in our behalf.
Fourth, to impress upon those whom He has redeemed by His death, how mercifully He came to their aid by placing His wounds before their eyes. This He did not only to demonstrate the magnitude of His love, but to strengthen our hope. And fifth, so that at the Last Judgment it might be apparent to all, even to the damned, how just their condemnation really is, in that they spurned so great a redemption.
We understand the importance of Jesus’ wounds – His scars. They are the enduring signs of the love in which God has held us throughout our lives. But perhaps today we might consider the value of our own wounds – our scars. For we have all been wounded – we all bear scars. No one passes through this world without suffering failure and loss. And our scars shape us in the image and likeness of Christ.
For where do we learn to empathize with another’s sorrow if not through the losses we grieve? Where do we learn to understand and respond to the needs of others if not through the needs that make our hearts ache? Where have we learned the value of a hug if not from the embraces offered to us when we most needed one?
Today we remember, in the words of one Eucharistic Prayer, that Jesus “opened His arms on the cross.” He opened them wide enough to embrace each and every one of us with all our woundedness, in all our sinfulness, in all our sorrow.
On the bewildering and wondrous day, let us lean into Christ’s outstretched arms and place all our sorrows in those wounded, healing hands. There, we can begin to see ourselves as He see us: strong and yet most vulnerable in those broken places His healing love touches. We gather as His broken body, made one with Him in the gift of the Eucharist He left His followers on the night before He died.
We bring our wounded selves, confident that in His healing love, our own scars have become the best parts of who we are. This is our lesson from what we suffer: that our own scars have become the best parts of who we are.