Saint Thomas would later be identified with his moment of doubt, but now it is not doubt that captures his mind. Jesus stands before him in the glory of his resurrected body. As Jesus shows Thomas his wounds, Thomas recalls the recent events still vividly painted in the minds of the men and women of Jerusalem.
He imagines Jesus lifted high on his cross. Christ’s hands and feet, pierced through with metal spikes, radiate excruciating agony throughout his entire body each time he lifts himself for one more desperate gasp of air. Shame and sadness well up as Thomas thinks of the spiritual agony his Lord underwent. Beginning with Christ’s solitary prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, spurred on by betrayal and denial from those closest to him, culminating in that cry of anguish: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” What has he endured, this Emmanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace?
But now Thomas turns to look closely at Christ’s eyes, lit up from within, with a love unparalleled in all of human experience. This love, undimmed by the absolute extreme of human cruelty, is the same love which creates and holds in being the very men who called for and brought about his execution. In this, as in all things, Christ humbles himself by obedience to the Father’s command, even to the point of death on a cross. By this ultimate sacrifice of divine infinity, humbling himself to share in our humanity, he wins restitution for our sin. For what is our own sin but a repudiation of the same Love who died to pay its price?
At the moment when the sacrifice is completed, the very moment when he cries “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” and freely gives up his life, all chance of victory for evil is eliminated. The one who sought to defeat Christ by killing him is defeated. This unequaled sacrifice has brought with it unsurpassable victory.
But God was not satisfied merely by our redemption. He was not content to allow the repentant son simply to re-enter his household. Instead, he chose to lavish upon us the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf, to glorify that once corrupted nature by the overflowing glory of the Resurrection which we celebrate during this season. Our infinite God startled human reason by limiting himself to human flesh. Our omnipotent God startled it again when he chose to die, really and truly. He startled it once more at his Resurrection, rising from the dead. It is no sinner, but the God-man himself who has done this, and so as our omnibenevolent God rises to glory, it is our nature which he draws so intimately close to his own.
And so it is that the Resurrected Christ assuages Thomas’ doubts with the sacred wounds by which he merited our salvation; the glorious emblems of his victory. So it is that the depths of torment, though they have given way to the heights of exaltation, are still remembered. He, our captain in this war, wears his wounds like a soldier wears his medals, as a commemoration of his triumph. Though the cross was once the pinnacle of ignominy and abasement, it has become the banner of the vanquishing army.
We, unworthy sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, are called not only to witness, but to participate in Christ’s victory. Though our eyes may see only a few steps forward, God calls us with unfathomable tenderness and mercy. He reveals to our untamed hearts that he has set before us a sure path to victory, though the way is hard and the gate is narrow. Undoubtedly this is the only path to victory, because it is the very path that God himself trod, weighed down by a heavy cross. This is what gives not simply meaning, but glory to our own sufferings and struggles.
Our spiritual blindness and unaided reason may not see the purpose of our pain. Our concupiscence may recoil at the thought of embracing our little splinter of Christ’s cross. And yet, above all our doubts and hesitation, this Easter stands as a radiant reminder that if we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ, what waits for us is an unhindered intimacy with Love, the one who walked the same path for us. Let us not despair when we fall under the weight of our crosses, but remember that by the cross, Jesus has already won for us the Easter Glory. In doing so, Christ has promised us that he will transform our wounds like his own.
–Br. Antony Augustine Cherian