Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, most famously known as “Doubting Thomas,” from the Gospel story we just heard. Thomas misses the initial appearance of the Resurrected Christ, and insists that he will not believe unless he can stick his fingers inside the wounds of Christ himself. Jesus later arrives, and after offering his disciples a greeting of “Peace be with you,” he does again what he has already done to an infinite degree: Jesus offers his body, for the dispelling of the shadows of doubt and the triumph of life through the light of faith. He orders Thomas to stick his fingers in the wounds of his body. Thomas immediately realizes his error, and exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”1 Fear, repentance, shock, jubilation, hope, excitement, awe, love…all of these and more, bound up in Thomas’s beautiful cry, and the experience takes Thomas from doubt to a belief deep enough to explicitly affirm that Christ is God Incarnate.
In this single exclamation, Thomas moves rapidly from sinner to saint. After doubt, he proclaims his faith in the Incarnation of God, and in the Resurrection of Christ. All this comes from beholding the wounds of Jesus. This is no coincidence. Christ’s wounds are the very place where we meet him. Through his wounds, we are able to enter into the body and love of Jesus. “Through his wounds, we are healed,”2 is not just a cleverly paradoxical way of framing the Crucifixion; through his wounds, we may enter into Christ and take our places as members of his Body. Humanity is marred, scarred, and sickly from the Fall; through his wounds, we may reencounter wholeness and restoration. The Body is reconstituted. Christ, the Physician and Medicine of the World,3 opens himself to our pleas and grants us entrance into himself.
But this new union is not one way. A healed and whole body is not constituted so that the head is aloof and unresponsive to everything from the neck down. We have come to this chapel to participate in the Eucharist, and to receive Christ’s body and blood. Like an infant suckling at his mother’s breast, we gather around the altar to nurse at the exposed body and blood of Jesus, so that we may be fed, nourished, and satisfied.4 The wounds are the place where we enter Jesus, but they are just as much the place where Jesus enters us. The place where Christ’s flesh is exposed is the place where our flesh is grafted onto and intertwined with his; the place where Christ’s blood runs hot and free is the place where our blood is commingled with his. The wounded one heals our wounds and makes us whole; we were created for union with God, and without this union, we cannot be whole. To accomplish this, Christ offers his body and blood as a living sacrifice at the Crucifixion, and the place where his flesh is bruised, battered, and bleeding is the very place of this union of human and divine. In beholding the wounds, Thomas proclaims as much: My Lord and my God!
This can be difficult. It can even be revolting or disgusting. Bloody flesh is not something we are accustomed to viewing favorably. It is a fearful thing to behold. The Eucharist, at times, may not offer clarity of understanding or warmth of heart.5 At times, it may be a boring or even sickening experience. When we are in this place of fear and boredom and sickness, however, is when we most need Jesus’s offering of his body and blood. When the medicine is most hateful to us is often when our ill bodies and souls most require it. It is here where our faith in the healing power of Christ’s wounds is most tested, where our disgust tries most determinedly to make us shrink back from the holy offering of the Wounded One. We may turn to today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews for encouragement: “we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.”6
Let us not shrink back. Let us embrace Christ’s body and blood. Let us, with the Apostle Thomas guiding us in each step along the way, enter into the wounds of our Lord and our God.
- John 20:24-29, NRSV
- 1 Peter 2:24
- Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on the Nativity, Hymn 3:20
- Saint Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 60
- The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, Chapter 17
- Hebrews 10:39
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