Homily, Wounds Resurrected
Second Sunday of Easter, Year C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What does it mean for Jesus to be resurrected with a wounded body?
In our gospel passage this morning the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples who are in hiding for fear that what happened to their teacher will happen to them. And when he appears he shows them his wounded hands and side to demonstrate that it’s really him and the disciples believe.
But my question is: why would the resurrected Jesus be wounded to begin with? Doesn’t resurrection mean restoration to full health? Then why can the disciples put their hands into his side? A resurrected, wounded body almost feels like an incomplete assignment, doesn’t it?
And yet there he is, standing before the disciples and offering them his wounded body as a sign of the resurrection.
What does it mean for Jesus to be resurrected with a wounded body?
The question makes me think of how we relate to our own wounded bodies, particularly in times when we’ve come through some illness or ailment but still deal with the effects of it.
Years ago I struggled with a generalized anxiety disorder, and at its peak I had these frequent panic attacks so that it was difficult for me to travel or eat out in restaurants or even do my job well. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll know that its an intensely physical experience. You feel like you can’t get enough air, you get dizzy. Your hearts races. Your stomach turns. And you feel like at any moment you’re going to pass out. It’s painful. It took me a few years, but thankfully, God brought me through that time and I got the help I needed. I found healing and new life again.
But you know, after all these years of healing, I still struggle with anxiety sometimes. I don’t get panic attacks like I used to. It doesn’t run my life. But I still carry in my body the marks of anxiety.
I guess that’s the way healing often works though, isn’t it? Very rarely after serious illness or disease do things go completely back to normal. Very rarely do we find ourselves unmarked by the experience.
I’m thinking of those who have survived serious cases of COVID but find that their bodies now have new challenges. I’m thinking of the physical changes that come from going through cancer treatment. Or even the changes that happen to a body after giving birth. After the womb is empty and new life has sprung forth.
So we return to our question.
What does it mean to be resurrected in a wounded body?
Or to put it differently:
What does it mean to go through a life-saving treatment with a body which feels the effects?
What does it mean to come out of surgery with a body that looks or feels differently?
What does it mean to be resurrected or healed and yet still bear the marks of the experience?
It’s an important question for us because often I think we’re uncomfortable with the marks we bear from these experiences. Not always, but often we’re uncomfortable with the wounds, the scars, and the blemishes we carry. And so we try to hide them. We put on more clothing. We pretend our abilities haven’t changed so we don’t have to ask for help. We just want things to go back to the way they were.
Sometimes these changes are simply frustrating, but other times our wounds are the source of deep shame. We live in a society uncomfortable with scars, wounds, and blemishes and so, often, we’re uncomfortable with them. We can see them as weaknesses. We can see them as brokenness.
Deep down we determine our worth partly on the look and abilities of our bodies and so when they change in uncomfortable ways, we can sometimes feel less whole. Less valued. Less worthy of love.
And yet here in this gospel passage, Jesus’ resurrected and glorified body is one familiar to us. It is a body with scars. A body with wounds. A body marked by the experiences that have come before. And yet it is whole. And holy. And worthy.
See, resurrection does not erase all that has come before. But it does transform it. The wounds which were once used on the cross to bring death are now used to bring life to the disciples. The wounds remain, but they are different.
It’s the same with us. We’re all called to a resurrected life. The resurrected life does not erase everything we’ve experienced. Instead the resurrected life takes what we’ve experienced and transforms it. So that what was seen as death is now seen as life. What was seen as shameful is now seen as holy. What was seen as brokenness is now seen as wholeness.
Your body, with all its marks, scars, and blemishes, your body with all its varying and changing abilities, your mind with all its gone through, in Jesus, is holy. It’s whole. It’s worthy. Just as you are. That’s the message this morning.
But why can’t our wounds be healed all the way? Wouldn’t it be better if we had just a little more comfort and relief? Why do I still have anxiety? Why do we still have pain? Why can’t we walk like we used to? Why do we have scars, marks, and stretch marks? Why do we still have wounds?
I don’t know. That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know why we carry our wounds and I don’t know why Jesus was resurrected with wounds. That’s a question with which we’ll continue to wrestle.
But the invitation of our gospel this morning, is not to understand, but to encounter. Not to understand, but to believe. Thomas did not understand how or why Jesus was standing in front of him, but the encounter with Jesus is all that really mattered. The encounter with Jesus is what was transformational. So how can we encounter Jesus through this passage?
What if we encountered Jesus through this passage in our own bodies? What if in Jesus’ wounds we saw our own wounds? What if we reached out and put our own hands in our own wounds and found there resurrection? What if we found there not shame, but holiness. Not brokenness, but wholeness. Not death, but life?
Now that’s something to think about. And maybe not only think about, but to actually do. Maybe we take some time this week, meditating on this passage with our wounds exposed. And maybe we take our physical hands and touch our physical bodies wherever we carry those wounds and we ask Jesus to be present there. And maybe in the stillness of that moment the words of the resurrected and wounded Jesus will speak to us as he did to Thomas, “Peace be with you. Put your finger here and see my wounds. As I am whole, you are whole. As I am holy, you are holy. As I am resurrected, you are resurrected. Do not doubt, but believe. Do not doubt, but believe.”
What does it mean for Jesus to be resurrected in a wounded body? It means Jesus is with us in our own wounded bodies. Amen.