We all know quite well the “Doubting Thomas” story, in which the risen Jesus appears to the apostles sans Thomas, and the skeptical (or grief-stricken) Thomas refuses to believe that Jesus really was there unless he can have direct experience of it. Jesus appears again and invites Thomas to probe His wounds in his hands and side, and Thomas believes.
Did it ever strike anyone else as odd that Jesus still bears the marks of his Passion even after his Resurrection? This is a resurrected body we’re talking about, after all–the kind that can pass through walls and is almost unrecognizable even to acquaintances. This is supposed to be humanity renewed, new and improved, far removed from the sufferings and travails of this vale of tears. To put it crudely: why are there holes in it?
The risen Christ still has his wounds. And from this one simple and seemingly odd fact we can derive a great deal about the economy of salvation.
Because the risen Christ still has his wounds, we know His Passion and Death were not accidental to our salvation, but rather crucial, instrumental, the means by which salvation was achieved. Some theologians have said that the important factor in our redemption was not the Passion but the Incarnation, that even if the infant Christ had been the victim of some accident, man would have been saved because God became man.
Not only does such a notion deny God’s Providence, it reduces the sufferings of Christ to a bad turn of luck suffered by a rather swell chap; if only the Sanhedrin or the Romans had been a little more understanding, all would have been well.
But the wounds of Christ are not the shameful, embarrassing marks of an accident, of an endeavor gone horribly wrong. They are the battle scars of a victorious warrior who has conquered sin and death and freed a captive world by his well-executed plan. The marks from the crown of thorns are his laurel wreath.
Related to this, the wounds of Christ show the suffering of the present world will not be obliterated by God in the new creation, but will be woven into the tapestry and made to fit the pattern of the whole.
God will not re-write history and undo our evil deeds. That would cheapen the price paid to redeem them. God will not remove our wounds, but he will soothe them with wine and oil and bind them to heal them; but the scars remain.
The Tradition says that at the end of time, creation will be “renewed,” “restored,” “re-established.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1042-1060) You don’t renew or restore something by throwing it out; you take its parts and bring them to their proper completion.
Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. The wounds of Christ show us that God takes up our suffering into His plan.
And in this the wounds of Christ teach us something of the power of God. When St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the problem of evil (How can God be perfectly infinite and good if there is evil in the world?), he quotes St. Augustine and says, “‘Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.’ This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” (Summa Theologiae I, question 2, article 3, ad. 1)
More than being so powerful as to prevent all evil, which would be simply accomplished by reducing human beings to automatons without free will, God is so powerful as to be able to bring all things, even acts deficient in goodness, to work for His purpose of bringing human beings into unity with Himself. The wounds of Christ show the power of God is such that “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Only the Almighty could use weakness as a strength. Only God could show a scar as a trophy.