A young mother I know wrote a beautiful benediction to her child about the scar across her tummy. “I know you hate it being there,” she wrote, “ But can I just say … I love it. I love all 8 centimetres of it. From start to finish. You want to know why? It’s because that scar, right there, across your tummy was the doorway to your salvation. It’s the remnants left behind, from a man who saved your life. I vowed to kiss your scar every day, or at least each time I set my eyes upon it. Because I love you. Every last fibre of you.”
At the darkness of the Easter Vigil, as the Paschal Candle is blessed, the priest pushes five grains of incense into the cross inscribed into the wax. ‘By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us,” he says. On this night, when we celebrate the rising of Christ, and the darkness is filled with light, and break the silence with song, we shy not away from his wounds, the doorway to our salvation.
‘By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.”From the Easter Vigil Liturgy
‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts?’ asks Jesus when he appears to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday. “See my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves… and as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.’ (Luke 24:38-40)
In the gospel according to John, Thomas is absent on this occasion. ‘Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ John 20:24ff). And so eight days later, on the first day of the week, when they are all gathered, Jesus appears again. “Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’
“Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’John 20:24ff
The wounds of Christ are part of Jesus’ identity, proof of who he is, a living sign that he who has died, who was ‘pierced for our sake’, is risen from the dead. ‘They will look on the one they have pierced,’ say John’s gospel, quoting Zechariah (John 19:37; Zechariah 12:10).
In a beautiful prayer for our Eucharistic devotion, the Anima Christi, we pray “Within thy wounds hide me.’ In itself, this could sound hideous but, equipped with the rich symbolism and story of the Christian narrative, it fills us with hope and comfort, refuge and strength.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25). The wounds of Christ are marks of love, a source of healing, the means through which we are saved. His death brings life, his wounds bring healing. “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” wrote St Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”1 Peter 2:24-25
In John’s gospel, when Jesus’ side is pierced, blood and water flow. Christians see in this a Sacramental sign. The water of Baptism, the Blood of the Eucharist. It is from and for Christ’s death that the Eucharist is given to us. The Eucharist is a memorial of the death of Christ, a means through which we are drawn deeper into his healing wounds, the source of our salvation. He loves us. Every last fibre.