Open Wounds

by Fr. David May

Mercy is a great thing—especially if you believe in it. Of course, it helps if you also believe you are in need of it. We even have a Sunday devoted to the Divine Mercy, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, also known in the Eastern Churches as Thomas Sunday.

The great promises made to St. Faustina about the outpouring of mercy for those who pray with devotion the chaplet by that name, are meant to remind us that this mercy is a reality for us, if we desire to partake of it.

Back to St. Thomas whose tale of doubt and belief is featured in both East and West on Divine Mercy Sunday: The Gospel tells us he insisted on seeing and touching wounds. Is there some kind of profound connection between wounds and the mercy of God?

If we remember the principle that everything in the Gospels is for us, then Thomas’ need and insistence on wounds is also for us. His need to know that those wounds of the Risen Christ were real is also our need.

Just for a moment, let’s look at the genesis and nature of wounds. Generally speaking, a wound is inflicted from outside—as when I cut my finger or otherwise receive some kind of blow. And then something flows from the inside out through that wound—blood, water, and perhaps tears at the pain of it all because a wound usually hurts.

Something goes in, and something goes out. Usually, it is necessary to close a wound for it to heal properly, to stop life from flowing out uncontrollably in the case of a serious wound. But the kind of wounds the Lord bears, we pray do not heal; we pray rather that they stay open for all time.

What do the wounds of Christ teach us? All that afflicts humanity—sin, death, weakness of the flesh, hatred—went into him during his Passion.

And wounds are the signature of that reality, left like a harsh kiss on the flesh of Christ. All the rebellion and disorder of human beings went into his very person, to the depths of who he was, right to the heart.

And his wounds tell us that yes, it’s true, he really suffered these things for us.

And then from these wounds flowed out … blood and water, his very life poured out for us. Compassion, forgiveness, mercy, tenderness. A total gift of Divine Mercy flowed out of those wounds.

But what about after the Resurrection? A week after his first appearance to his disciples, he again comes through locked doors to wish them his peace.

Then he turns to Thomas and showing him his wounds, he insists that Thomas put his hand into his side so he can feel it, experience it for himself.

Yes, real wounds are there, too, on the Risen Body of the Lord. But now something is different.

Christ’s wounds are no longer bleeding, no longer causing physical agony; they are now glorious wounds, an integral part of his risen body. But wounds, they remain.

Open they are, both to receive and to give. And that means that Christ’s person, his being, is still open for us, so that all we carry, all that burden atoned for on the Cross already—can still go into him.

And out of those same glorious wounds come the graces of the sacraments, of the Church, for our salvation—mercy, tenderness, praise, forgiveness, change of heart.

The Gospel also says, Blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe. Thomas saw, touched, believed. Normally, most of us never see Christ, but we are able to touch him, and in touching, grow in faith. What do we touch of Christ? We touch his wounds.

How do we do this? By going to Confession, for example. The sins I confess do not just vanish into thin air. Rather, they go into Christ, to be forgiven and transformed. Where do they enter him? Through his wounds, into his very person. He receives our whole burden of sin and gives back in turn…forgiveness.

And so it is with the Eucharist.  His wounds are overflowing with compassion for us: “This is my Body, for you; this is my blood, for you.”

In other words, he’s open to us in a tremendous way, if only we are open to him. We can see therefore why even in his glory, Christ’s wounds remain. They are glorious for us.

Another way these wounds touch us for our healing is through the Word of God. At times in reading or in hearing the Word, you realize by the Holy Spirit that this particular word is for you. It’s for your healing, your enlightenment, your transformation. It’s just what you need to hear so that you can go on living right now, continue believing.

This word, too, comes from the same Christ who was wounded for us. In other words, Our Lord paid the price that this word given now can be received by us at all.

How efficacious is such a word for our transformation into Christ! Truly we sell ourselves short by neglecting the Word of God, which can cut (wound!) us to the very depths of our heart, bringing light to dark places.

Finally, we can touch those wounds in the Body of Christ, in his people.

Here, I don’t mean primarily people who are “very wounded” in the sense of being ill or psychologically afflicted. I mean rather people who are open—to love and to the gift of love. In other words people who manifest a Christ-like love.

If you’ve ever been forgiven when you didn’t deserve it, trusted when you shouldn’t have been really, excused when you had no excuse, let off the hook when you should have been left on the hook, you’ve touched the wounded love of Christ in one of his members. What a powerful witness to him this can be!

Catherine Doherty used to say over and over to us: what is needed today is for people to touch the wounds of Christ. People have to test it for themselves to see if love is real.

There is so much unbelief in the world of today, that the validity of the sacraments in the eyes of many depends on those receiving them becoming open wounds.

Not in the sense of wallowing in one’s woundedness, but in the sense of being open to others in a gift of love freely and generously shared. In other words, love willing to pay the price, and not count the cost, the cost of bringing the Gospel to a brother or sister.

This also explains why Catherine at the end of her life insisted that what was most needed within the Madonna House community itself is a wounded heart.

Again, this meant not a heart wallowing in the pathos of its many injuries, but an open heart—one that receives those who come, receives their pain and pours compassion on all, mercy on all.

Thus we share in the wounds of our risen Lord, both as beneficiaries and as dispensers of his great mercy. Yes, this means the Cross is ever with us, but our struggles of each day we bring to the wounded Christ: “Take this day, O Lord, with all its burdens; I give it to you, it is yours!”

And Christ replies in turn: “I give you the grace for this day. Peace for this day. Trust. Perseverance. The wherewithal to do whatever is necessary. For today this gift of my wounded love is yours.”