Thomas, called Didymus, must have gotten sick of being cooped up by fear. He was a bit braver than the others so he was willing to go to the 7-11 to pick up some chips and soda. You can imagine how excited the disciples were when Thomas came back into the room after his snack run. “We have seen the Lord.” He’s like a superstar. Locked doors don’t deter him. Death can’t hold him. The Spirit is with him. You should have been here, Thomas. He, doubtless, sighed because he knew something. He knew that life beyond life was not going to come through a super hero, through someone who was above the likes of you and me. Thomas knew that Resurrection life would have to include the wounds that are part of human existence. Instead of looking for someone with super-abilities who was more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, Thomas looked for nail-marked hands that had given until they bled, for a torn-open side that provided space for something more than oneself. Thomas was right, we don’t need another hero but rather someone wounded who feels what I am going through and is thus able to transform my wounds.
Being wounded seems to be part and parcel of the human condition. Our wounds come from many different quarters. Perhaps we were part of a family which doled out micro-aggressions and didn’t know how to say “good job.” Maybe our intimate relations have floundered and failed. “I bruise you, you bruise me, we both bruise so easily” went an old Art Garfunkel song. Or it could be some teacher or coach or supervisor put down our abilities, calling us everything but a child of God. Body shaming and racial stereotyping slash at our self-esteem. The church itself cuts deep when it makes statements which make it seem that some people don’t belong. Dealing with illness or going through grief can rip us apart. Whatever the source, these wounds have taken a toll on us and made us feel that we don’t measure up, that we are unworthy, that we should keep our head down and just keep moving along, nothing to see here. The physical wounds that Jesus exhibited are the outward manifestation of the wounded souls we all share. Thomas’ instinct to touch those wounds was spot on. We all belong to the same club as Jesus – the wounded souls who need new life.
Easter proves that we are more than our wounds, that our wounds don’t define us. The holes in the hands of Jesus did not prevent him from being wholly alive and able to dispense holiness to those in the upper room. When Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you,” he was not making a wish or offering a prayer. He was stating a fact. Peace be with you for you are held as precious in the hand of God. Your poor, battered, beaten and bruised, torn up and turned out, used, abused and misused, raggedy old self can be at peace because God has claimed you for glory. Peace be with you for no matter what has happened in the past your future is safe and secure from all alarms. Peace be with you for God has claimed you just as you are.
Thomas needed to touch the wounds of Jesus because he, like all of us, had a hard time believing that real, full, rich, eternal life is possible to those who have broken wings. We imagine that we have to be better, that there needs to be a new and improved me for God to work with. Once I get my act together, once I uncurl from the defensive crouch I’m in to prevent future hurts, once I get over my tendency to lash out, once I am more kind and loving THEN I’ll be ready to let Easter joy and peace fill my soul. I’m too damaged right now. By touching the wounds of Jesus we see none of that is so. God brings new life out of the most mangled of souls. Did you notice the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles? You can be sure that the early community of believers was just as messed up, just as full of fears and resentments, just as wounded as we are. Yet they found a way to be “of one heart and mind.” They let the love of God, not their human frailty, become their defining trait.
… which might explain why a primary task we have as Easter people is forgiveness. Does it seem a bit premature for Jesus the day of the resurrection to tell his disciples: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them?” Too soon? Ordinarily our reaction to a harm or an injury is to get angry. Think of all the grieving families on TV who demand justice for what they are going through. Can’t we at least shake our fist at Pilate? Jesus urges forgiveness not as a way of absolving or exonerating those who have done harm in the past but in order to create the possibility of moving forward into the future. Forgiveness frees us from the hold that those who have wounded us have over us. Then, we can limp together toward becoming the community of believers who love one another.
Ultimately, isn’t that what we are to do? Love one another? On that first Easter evening Jesus told his followers “As the Father has sent me, so I sent you.” The Father sent Jesus to bring the love of God among the wounded people all around him. We are sent to do the same: bring God’s love into a city torn by violence, into a society infected with racism, into a neighborhood filled with hungry people, into our youth seeking direction and guidance, into our families dealing with sickness and loss and grief. When we do that, when we bring love, we truly are an Easter people, filled with Resurrection life and “alleluia” is our song.