Glorious Wounds—Christ’s and Ours | Fr. Andrew Hofer | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
You could say that Christ’s glorious wounds are our wounds. He took our humanity to himself in the Incarnation … Christ’s humanity is completely ours.
Central to the mystery of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, known collectively in modern times as the “paschal mystery.” This unity can be most vividly seen in the glorious wounds of the risen Lord. Christ, now raised from the dead, is the same Christ who suffered and died upon the cross. Rather than effacing the marks of the crucifixion, the resurrection glorifies them. These wounds have special mention in some of the scripturally-recorded appearances of the risen Lord. In Luke 24:39 (NAB), we hear Jesus say, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Jesus then showed the disciples his hands and his feet (cf. Luke 24:40). Even more prominently, the account in John 20:24-29 of the Apostle Thomas’s doubt and coming to faith, through the invitation to probe Jesus’s hands and side, allows us to probe the meaning of those glorious wounds. As we ponder them, we can find out something not only about the risen Jesus, but also about ourselves.
In his treatment of Christ’s resurrection, St. Thomas Aquinas asks in his Summa Theologiae III (q. 54. a. 4) whether Christ’s body should have risen with its scars. As always in the Summa, Aquinas begins with objections, the best objections that can be mustered against his own position. The first objection deals with how wounds signify corruption and defect. In more modern language, perhaps one could say that the wounds are gross. Isn’t the idea of someone coming to life after death while bearing the wounds of his death something from a horror film? Wouldn’t Jesus be more likely to say “Someone is going to pay for this” than “Peace be with you”? The second objection also is a matter of the gross factor: wounds destroy bodily integrity. The body just isn’t whole if there are gaping slashes. There’s something wrong, and it’s disgusting. The third objection runs likes this. It might be permissible to retain some sign of the crucifixion to confirm the faith of the disciples that he ,who was once put to death on a cross, now lives. But, why in the world would he continue to look like that? Since Christ’s body immediately after the resurrection is how that body is forever afterwards, it’s not fitting for him to rise with the scars from the crucifixion. The resurrection is forever, so let’s think about the long-term appearance of the body, particularly in what is to be the most glorified body of all. It wouldn’t be right to look that way.
Now, Aquinas knows that Christ did rise with wounds, and so the fact of Christ’s resurrected body having glorious wounds is the immediate answer on whether or not that should have occurred. It, in fact, did happen in God’s providence, and so we can then see how there was fittingness by God’s design. Aquinas’ arguments of fittingness (ex convenentia) are arguments of beauty, and, perhaps, there’s nothing quite like the beauty of his answers for the glory of the risen Lord.
In the body of the article, Aquinas gives his first answer as the first of five reasons coming from the Venerable Bede. Christ rose with his wounds for his own glory. It’s not that Christ couldn’t heal his own wounds, but that he wanted “to wear them as an everlasting trophy of his victory.” I was once explaining this to a class of young African men studying for the priesthood. I said that this idea of a trophy of victory is like someone who has survived a fight, but who bears a scar from a fight that he won. Rather than being some sort of embarrassment, the scar is something that he shows off to his friends. One of the African students quickly understood, and said that that was certainly true in his own case. He survived a terrible fight, and he is proud to show others what the fight did to his body. In the words of urban lingo, he gets “street cred.” Jesus, you could say, has this “street cred.” The Lord is able to show off—to have glory—for his victory over the fight against death itself.