On the feast of St. Thomas the apostle, he whose unbelief helps us in our belief, I happened to reread this passage from the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on “The Scars of Christ: A Lesson on Enduring Faith” from the book Characters of the Passion.
The scars of Christ have a starring role in the Passion of the Son of God and in our lives and redemption.
In a world that knows so many deep gouging wounds of the body and soul, it’s a passage to read and reflect on as we consider his scars an invitation to healing on the journey to Heaven – a journey we have to accept His love and Cross to be on.
Here’s Archbishop Sheen:
The only one who can bring solace to our times is a Christ with scars, Who Himself had passed through death to give us hope and life, and this is the Christ of Easter morn. What figure large in the Easter story are the scars of Christ. Magdalen, who was always at His feet, either in Simon’s house or at the cross, is there again in the garden; and not until she sees on those feet the red livid memories of Calvary’s war does she recognize her Lord and cry out, “Rabboni!”—Master.
Then Christ came to the skeptical, doubting world in the person of Thomas, whose melancholy made him a doubter. When told by the other disciples that they had seen the Lord, Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, unless I put my finger into the place where the nails were, and my hands into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).
Eight days later when the disciples were in the room and Thomas was with them, “Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord, and my God!’” (John 20:26-28).
The kind of Christ the world needs today is the Virile Christ, who can unfurl to an evil world the pledge of victory in His own Body, offered in bloody sacrifice for salvation. No false gods who are immune from pain and sorrow can solace us in these tragic days.
Take out of our lives the Christ of the Scars, Who is the Son of the Living God, Who rose from the dead by the power of God, and what assurance have we that evil shall not triumph over good? … If this is the end of goodness, then why be good at all? If this is what happens to justice, then let anarchy reign.
But if He is not only man but God; if He is not a teacher of humanitarian ethics, but a Redeemer; if He can take the worst this world has to offer and then by the power of God rise above it; if He, the unarmed, can make war with no other weapon than goodness and pardon, so that slain has the gain, and they who kill the foe lose the day, then who shall be without hope as the Risen Christ shows us His Hands and Side?
What do the scars of Christ teach us? They teach us that life is a struggle: that our condition of a final resurrection is exactly the same as His; that unless there is a cross in our lives, there will never be an empty tomb; unless there is a Good Friday, there will never be Easter Sunday; unless there is a crown of thorns, there will never be the halo of light; and unless we suffer with Him, we shall not rise with Him.
The scars are not only reminders that life is warfare, but they are also pledges of victory in that war….
Evil will never be able to be stronger than it was on that particular day, for the worst thing that evil can do … is to kill God. Having been defeated in that, in its strongest moment, when evil wore its greatest armor, it can never be victorious again.
Think not, then, that the Jesus of the Scars and His victory over evil give us immunity from evil and woe, pain and sorrow, crucifixion and death. What He offers is not immunity from evil in the physical world, but a change for forgiveness for sin in our souls. The final conquest of physical evil will come in the resurrection of the just. But He does teach a noble army of the world’s sufferers to bear the worst this life has to offer with courage and serenity, to regard of its trials as “the shade of His hand outstretched caressingly,” and to transfigure some of life’s greatest pains into the richest gains of the spiritual life.