SummaryThomas’ 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?
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 Before His Resurrection, Jesus did miraculously walk on water—miraculous because doing so superseded the natural state of the body.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!”