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Saturday, April 10th, 2021

There Is Peace in His Wounds

In ch 20 of St John’s Gospel, Christ appears before the barricaded apostles. He bids them peace; they seem to hesitate. He then shows them his Wounds—they rejoice. He repeats his greeting of peace. Pax vobiscum. The lesson is clear: there is peace in his Wounds.

One apostle is absent, however: St Thomas.

So the episode is repeated. A week later, again the greeting: Pax vobiscum. This time, Our Lord goes directly to St Thomas, and bids him touch the sacred Wounds. Then St Thomas, forever dubbed The Doubter, believes. And in believing, he receives the peace of those Wounds.

And yet perhaps we can reconsider St Thomas’ initial hesitance to believe his fellows. We call it doubt, and it may well be; but perhaps the following is also at work. First, we do well to note that St Thomas replies to the initial reports, not with a wholesale rejection of the possibility of Christ’s being alive, but with some conditions: ‘Until I have seen the mark of the nails on his hands, until I have put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand in his side . . .’

Now it is true that supernatural faith is conditionless, in a certain sense. But in this case, why didn’t St Thomas simply say something more usual, such as, ‘Until I see his face,’ or, ‘Until I hear his voice,’ or, ‘Until I am able to embrace him’? He said none of these things, but instead, made reference to the Wounds of Christ. It is the Wounds he needed to see.

Obviously there could be any number of reasons why he speaks this way. But perhaps—and this is the central insight for now—perhaps St Thomas more than all the apostles knew that it is the Wounds of Christ that most define Him. Perhaps it was that St Thomas knew that an un-wounded Redeemer was no redeemer at all. Perhaps St Thomas knew more than the others that the Wounds of Christ were essential. Without His shining Wounds, could it really be the Saviour? The supreme moment of the earthly life of the Messiah was when he received these Wounds. How could He return from the sepulcher without them?

Perhaps St Thomas knew himself enough to know that there could be no peace outside of these Wounds, and for exactly the same reason as Isaiah the prophet had said so long ago: ‘by his wounds we were healed.'[1]

So yes, maybe St Thomas can be accused of a certain haughty slowness to believe. But perhaps it is more than that. Our Lord’s Wounds bring peace to the apostles, and assurance. The assurance is twofold. First, that Christ’s Wounds show Him to be the God-man who can save. Second, that there is no such thing as an un-wounded Catholic faith; there is no true religion without wound-giving sacrifices.

And from all that, we can derive peace. Pax vobiscum. For us, too, those Wounds bring peace—with our own assurance that the wounds we suffer for Him make us, not far from Christ, but certainly very near Him.

 

 


[1] Isaiah 53, 5.

{Art Credit: Arms of Jesus Christ, c 1459; Bodleian MS Arch. G f. 13}

Lightening Meditations