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War Wounds: Does Jesus Still Bear the Marks of the Passion? - by John Clark

War Wounds: Does Jesus Still Bear the Marks of the Passion?

4 minutes

Summary

Thomas’ act of belief for Resurrection raises a question: the presence of wounds in Jesus’ glorified body. John Clark explores what that can mean for us. 

This weekend, the Church commemorates the post-Resurrection encounter between Jesus and Saint Thomas the Apostle.

As the Gospel of John tells us:

Then saith He to Thomas: “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said unto Him: “My Lord and My God.

As a follower of Jesus, Thomas had experienced a pretty rough week. Thomas had run away from the Passion and Death of Jesus, and a few days later, refused to believe that Jesus had appeared to others.

Thomas failed to appear and then failed to believe. After all this, Jesus physically presented Himself in His glorified Body.

Jesus addressed them all by saying: “Peace be unto you.” And then, Jesus addressed Thomas directly, inviting Him to feel the bodily wounds of His Passion.

Scripture doesn’t tell us, but we can guess that Thomas fell to his knees and began to cry—perhaps shedding tears of repentance for his failure to appear at Calvary, perhaps tears of joy for being reunited with His savior, perhaps both.

And although Thomas doubted, we have no reason to believe that Thomas ever doubted again. He spent the next four decades of his life evangelizing and baptizing others until he was martyred in India. We can also guess that much of these forty years of Thomas’ life were inspired by what he saw that day.

Indeed, Thomas saw the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus, but Thomas also saw something else.

What was it?

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Consider the scene.

Scripture tells us that the Apostles were locked in a room, and Jesus physically came into the room without opening the doors. How? Jesus has a glorified body that can move through matter without difficulty. Before His Resurrection, Jesus did miraculously walk on water—miraculous because doing so superseded the natural state of the body.

But after the Resurrection, it is natural and proper that glorified bodies move unencumbered by space and matter; moreover, they do not experience pain or defect. As Catholic theologians have commonly believed for centuries, glorified bodies have unique, amazing, and wonderful properties that pre-glorified bodies do not.

But this discussion of glorified bodies raises a question: In His glorified state, why did Jesus still have wounds? Why were there still wounds in His glorified hands? Why did the hole in His glorified side remain?

The answer to these questions is the same answer as it is to the most important questions about His Passion, His death, His miracles, His Nativity, the Eucharist, and the institution of Matrimony. It is the answer to every relevant question in the science of theology. The answer: Jesus loves us. Jesus loves Thomas. Jesus loves you.

Jesus wills for us to love Him, and His life is evidence of that desire. His enduring wounds are evidence of that desire.

How could Thomas feel the wounds of Jesus and not be overwhelmed by love for His Savior?

When Thomas reached his hand into the side of Jesus, Thomas felt the beating of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thomas felt the very heart of God. Thomas also knew why it was beating. The heartbeat that began in the womb of the Virgin Mary and now will beat for all eternity beats for love of Thomas, and for love of you.

Though His glorified body suffers no pain from them, His wounds nevertheless evidence His divine and perpetual love not only for Thomas two millennia ago, but for us today, and always. The early saints, such as St. Martin of Tours, recognized this fact.

As St. Martin’s biographer recounts, the devil appeared to Martin in the fourth century attempting to trick him. But the devil made one obvious mistake:

At one point the devil appeared to him dressed in magnificent robes, encrusted with gold and gems, and announced he was Jesus and that Martin was to adore him. Martin immediately saw the mistake the devil had made (and had to make) and asked, “Where are the marks of the nails? Where the piercing of the spear? Where the crown of thorns? When I see the marks of the Passion I shall adore my Lord.”

St. Augustine posits the idea that the glorified bodies of others may retain the wounds they suffered for God as well. Augustine explains that our love for the martyrs will be so great in Heaven

that we would wish in that kingdom to see on their bodies the marks of those wounds which they have borne for Christ’s sake. And perhaps we shall see them; for they will not have deformity, but dignity, and, though on the body, shine forth not with bodily, but with spiritual beauty.

While on earth, the wounds of the martyrs were a source of pain; but in Heaven, their painless wounds may be a source of joy and spiritual radiance. Building on Augustine’s idea, it may not be only the martyrs who experience this—it may be all of us who have united our sufferings to God.

Many of you reading this are suffering, and that suffering can come in many forms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Given time, perhaps all of us undergo these in some ways.

Particularly those who are suffering terribly need to remind themselves of the suffering of Jesus. When united with the suffering of Our Lord, our suffering can be a dignity that illustrates our love for Jesus.

As Augustine notes, though our happiness in Heaven is total and lacks nothing, perhaps part of that dignified happiness will be that we accomplished something on earth that even the angels cannot do: suffer with Christ, for Christ.

In the depths of our suffering—when we feel suffered out, when the pain just exhausts us—it is then that we must think of that moment when Jesus showed His hands and His side to Thomas. Perhaps the encounter with Thomas is a foreshadowing of our meeting with Jesus in Heaven.

So many times on earth, especially during suffering, we may be tempted to wonder about the love of Jesus. But as we are entering Heaven, our risen Lord will answer all those questions about His love.

Perhaps the way we will understand is to put our hand in His side and feel the beating of His Sacred Heart, and know that, since its first beat, it will always beat for us.

And our loving response will be like that of Thomas so many years ago: “My Lord and My God!”

Header image CC Fr Lawrence Lew OP | Flickr

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About John Clark

John Clark
John Clark is a graduate of Christendom College, holding a degree in Political Science and Economics. He is a professional author and speechwriter. His book “Who’s Got You? Observations of a Catholic Homeschooling Father” has reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category. He has written scores of articles about Catholic family life and has been published in such places as Catholic Digest, Latin Mass Magazine, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and CatholicExchange.com. He publishes a popular monthly column in Seton Magazine and a weekly blog for SetonMagazine.com. He and his wife Lisa have nine children.Meet John | See his Book
  • Howard

    I heard in a homily several years ago that Satan appeared to St. Francis on the road in the guise of Jesus. St. Francis was not the least bit fooled, but vehemently rebuked Satan and told him to go back to Hell. Satan was surprised at this and asked how Francis had recognized him. “You do not bear the wounds,” the saint explained.

    • bdlaacmm

      This seems to be a repeated theme in the stories of many saints. St. Teresa of Avila similarly saw through a satanic deception by noting that the counterfeit Jesus had no wounds.

      • Ana

        So true, Jesus proudly wears His wounds even if gilded in Gold, they are glorious.

  • mollysdad

    Bearing the woulds of martyrdom in the glorified state might be a little too much to ask of those who are beheaded for their witness to Jesus Christ.

  • Richard A

    So … St. Lawrence? Joan of Arc?

    • John Clark

      “And yet we need not believe that they to whom it has been said, ‘Not a hair of your head shall perish,’ shall, in the resurrection, want such of their members as they have been deprived of in their martyrdom. But if it will be seemly in that new kingdom to have some marks of these wounds still visible in that immortal flesh, the places where they have been wounded or mutilated shall retain the scars without any of the members being lost. While, therefore, it is quite true that no blemishes which the body has sustained shall appear in the resurrection, yet we are not to reckon or name these marks of virtue blemishes.” St. Augustine, The City of God, Book 22, Chapter 19

  • I was tempted to imagine a snarky carnival of ‘horrors’ given the variety of deaths, but since we’re talking about glorified bodies in their most perfect state, I’m sure we’re talking about some mystical reality/presentation of the wounds that can be understood without detracting from their glory.

    It’s like trying to bite a wall. It’s real, but the concept is bigger than our heads/current ability to understand. ;)

  • bdlaacmm

    I realize this isn’t quite the same thing as the glorified body, but C.S. Lewis once wrote (possibly tongue in cheek) that the only books that would accompany us to Heaven would be those we had loaned to others, and that they’d bear all the thumb prints, creased pages, and cracked spines as marks of glory. (Lewis had an aversion to loaning books to others, which he struggled his whole life to overcome.)

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