Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
There’s a Thomas in every crowd. Join a board, attend a dinner party, sign up for the local basketball league, and when conversation begins you will more than likely find a Thomas. Thomas is the one who asks questions, who wonders aloud about the implications of a decision, who isn’t afraid to show that he doesn’t understand the issue. Think about the times in the Gospel when we hear from Thomas: “Let’s go with Jesus to Jerusalem and probably get killed together.” “What do you mean, you are the way? How can we know the way when we don’t know where you are going?” And now, “How do we know this is the Jesus who was crucified and has risen?”
The Thomases of the world do the rest of us a great service. When Thomas says, “I don’t understand- please explain again,” he’s probably speaking for half the people in the room, but he’s the only one brave enough to admit his bafflement. It’s way past time to set aside the jeer of “doubting Thomas”, just as last week at the Easter Vigil our Bishop urged us to rehabilitate Mary Magdalene.
Thomas wants proof, and the proof is in the wounds. The one who comes to save him and us still has the nail holes in his flesh. He is not flawless, not pretty, but eternally marked by torture. Jesus is forever changed by his experience of the worst that humanity can do. And yet he says, “Peace be with you” to the faithless friends who abandoned him to his suffering. He insists that Thomas fully acknowledge the wounds, that he even touch them. Would you touch them? How would it feel to share the peace with one whom you betrayed, who carries the scars of that betrayal? The pain of fully understanding what Jesus has endured for us must change us as it changes Thomas. Once we have touched those wounds, we can no longer be passive or detached. Of course, we don’t have the opportunity today to touch the wounds of Jesus. But we do have opportunities to touch the wounds of those in whom we see Jesus. We can touch the wounds of the body of Christ as we encounter it in our world today.
On Wednesday I attended an event hosted by the San Diego Organizing Project at our Lady of Guadalupe church in Barrio Logan. The event was called Faith Not Fear, and it brought together people of many faiths to express our support and solidarity for refugees and immigrants. I was pleased to see Sheriff Gore, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman, and various elected officials there, as well as our own Bishop Mathes, RC Bishop MacElroy, and Imam Taha.
A number of faith leaders and community members spoke, and it seemed to me that they touched some of the wounds of Christ. They spoke of the dangers of driving while black or brown and of the school-to-prison pipeline. A courageous young woman, a so-called Dreamer, spoke of her experience growing up undocumented. We heard the pain of exclusion, of being thought “less than”, of living in constant fear that a loved one could simply disappear, picked up and deported without warning. We heard the anger that grows in response to living with injustice and discrimination.
A priest shared a collection of statements made by his parishioners expressing their fears and anxieties, and we lit candles to drive away the darkness and rekindle hope.
All of this took place in a church decorated for Easter, with images of the wounded and risen Christ all around us.
Thomas touches the wounds of Christ to convince himself that this is indeed the risen Messiah. And, being convinced, he immediately worships his Savior as God. Events like the one I attended on Wednesday allow us likewise to touch those wounds, to recognize the suffering of the body of Christ in our community and to seek and serve the Christ in our wounded neighbors. But beyond that touch, the touch that makes real, there is desperate need for the touch that heals, and that is our true task.
The English scholar NT Wright calls on us to see that healing mission as the proper and natural expression of our basic discipleship. We are, he writes, “the community that feels the pain of the world, the depression and the worry and the anger and the exclusion and the hopelessness that are the daily lot of those around; and thus the community that, being itself healed by the wounded healer himself, can pass on that healing to its neighbors.”*
Wright offers us “a vision of a Christian community, and hence of a Church, a country, and a world, purified and transformed by the fire of God’s wounded love.”*
When did the suffering of the world first make its mark on you? I remember a moment when I was pregnant with my first child, watching the news on TV of a young Israeli soldier who had been killed. I felt the pain of that soldier’s heartbroken mother. Somehow, for the first time that I remember, I touched the wounds of a stranger. My own embryonic motherhood was touched by her agony. Looking back 30 years, I recognize that moment as a moment of grace, a moment when I became more fully human than before, a moment when Jesus breathed the Spirit into me and invited me into a new kind of life.
Just as the Lord we follow is wounded and remains wounded even after his resurrection, so we carry our own wounds into our life as a people transformed and redeemed. Just as the scars Jesus carries add a strange beauty and power to his message – a constant reminder for us that he has indeed suffered for us – so our own scars add authenticity to the message that we have for the world: the good news that all people, no matter how scarred, how disfigured by sin they may be, are beloved of God and carry the image of Christ within them.
And it is when we allow others to touch our own wounds that we most nearly resemble our wounded Savior. When we, as members of a community of love, share our fears, our failures, our secret conviction that we are not enough, we share the wounds of Christ and we give our brothers and sisters in faith an opportunity to offer the healing touch and so to live into the church’s mission. This was the gift we received at Wednesday’s Faith not Fear event from those courageous witnesses.
Thomas showed his brothers and sisters that the Lord they followed was still their Lord, despite the scars of his suffering. He led the way in worshiping the risen Jesus as God. Today we follow that same Lord, and we give thanks for his wounds, for they remind us of our own wounds and the wounds of the world, and they call us into solidarity with all the wounded and into our mission to touch, to love, and to heal.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
April 23,2017 Second Sunday of Easter
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges
* N.T. Wright “The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit” page 116. 1992: Eerdmans.