Sunday's gospel story of Doubting Thomas offers us a secret room, and, with it, an invitation to touch, to cross more deeply into Jesus' story and our own. John tells of a room in which the disciples gather-a locked room, for fear. For secrets. And there, in their midst, Jesus appears, offering his hands and side, offering peace, offering the Holy Spirit, breathing into them. But Thomas is gone, John tells us, and will not believe unless he sees. So Jesus returns a week later, slides through the shut doors of the secret room, shows himself to Thomas. "Put your finger here and see my hands," Jesus says, as if touching and seeing are one and the same. "Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
Thomas would have found good company amongst many Christians in the middle Ages, when there arose a form of devotion that gave particular attention to the wounds of Christ as an entry into prayer and contemplation. With an approach to both flesh and spirit that can be challenging for us to understand in the world today, these mystics saw in Christ's wounds, an array of meanings. Christ's wound became, among other things, an opening through which he offers his life-giving sustenance as a mother shares her milk with her child; a womb-space that offers the possibility of rebirth, and a place of union between lover and beloved.
While such a vivid approach to the wounds of Christ may strike our 21st -century sensibilities as odd or gruesome, this form of contemplation was not seen as an end in itself. Mystics and artists understood the flesh of Christ as a threshold: that his wounds were an entryway, a portal into God. Contemplating the wounds of Christ could also prompt medieval Christians to touch the wounds of the world. The wounds of Christ are the sufferings of the poor, the outcast, and the unfortunate. These imaginative approaches to Christ's wounds, and the access they offered to medieval folk who sought intimate acquaintance with him, do not dismiss or justify the violence of the crucifixion story.
Encountering these visual images, however, has challenged me to wonder what sort of doorway they offer to me, and to us, in these days that, as they ever have been, are so profoundly marked by violence. I have come to see more clearly the ways that being in the world and loving one another - even from our most intact, integrated places, much less our less-intact ones, exposes us to wounding, to the giving and receiving of pain. Christ's wounds exemplify this. They show the depth of his willingness to enter into our loving in all its hurt and hope and capacity for going horribly wrong. In wearing his wounds...even in his resurrection...he confronts us with our own and calls us to move through them into new life. The crucified Christ challenges us to discern how our wounds will serve as doorways that lead us through our own pain and into a deeper relationship with the wounded world and with the Christ who is about the business of resurrection, for whom the wounds did not have the final word.
As we continue into this Easter season, how do we see the wounds of Christ in the wounds of the world? How might we be called to reach into those wounds - not to wallow in them, not to become overwhelmed by them, but to touch them and minister to them and help to turn them into doorways that draw us deeper into Christ? In this season of resurrection, may you see the risen Christ all around you. May you be blessed in your seeing and lean yourself into the new world that he offers to you. Rev. Sheri Fry