Saturday, May 23, 2009
Scars After the Resurrection
Since tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension I thought it was high time to reflect on some of the Easter stories in the Gospels, “Doubting Thomas”, the road to Emmaus, Mary Magdalene at the tomb and others. I’ve heard these stories so many times before but recently I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before.
Many of the stories feature the disciples examining the hands, feet and side of Jesus to examine the scars of the nails and lance. This helps them see that he is not a ghost or a figment of their imagination but he is indeed truly risen from the dead. The stories focus on the corporeality of Jesus, now the risen Christ.
One day I realized, “Wait a minute, Jesus is resurrected. What do you mean he has scars? He’s resurrected, doesn’t that mean perfection?” There was a fundamental incongruity I had never noticed before. Here is Jesus who has conquered death, and yet he still bears the scars of torture and death. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite right. Resurrection should mean that everything has changed, all the reminders, tangible and intangible, of death and pain should be wiped away. And yet the disciples keep touching the scars. Jesus, who is the Christ, the resurrected Son of God, bears the marks of death.
So what does that mean for those of us still living in the reality of everyday, pre-resurrection life? What does the fact that after the resurrection Jesus retains the scars of death mean for us who are still living in the midst of this life? What do Jesus’ scars say to those of us travelling towards resurrection, struggling in the here and now to attain the full stature of Christ? Somehow this bothers me. I want to think that the power of the resurrection in our life means that we shouldn’t have scars, we should be able to be healed of all our pain and be completely new without any reminders of our suffering, our limitations, our wounds.
But perhaps the fact that Jesus still bears his scars is actually a sign of deep hope. Perhaps the scars of the resurrected Christ tell us that even as we grow, change, mature and are being re-made into the image of God our scars remain with us as powerful reminders and testimony to who we are, to how God made us. The reality of the resurrection is that new life happens, God’s power works within us, but we are still our fundamental selves. The power of resurrection in our lives means that we are transformed but we don’t get personality transplants, God gives us new life in the context of our old life. I am changed and healed, my wounds are no longer gaping holes but reminders of God’s work. The reality of Easter is that I am changed but the scars remain to remind me of God’s transforming power.
Here in the monastery this means that we are all slowly, haltingly, in the process of living into the reality of the resurrection. We try to be open to God’s transforming power. We struggle to manifest the grace God freely gives. But we all bear our scars. I try to be open to growth and healing but my scars are reminders to myself and everyone who lives with me that I won’t be perfect. As much as I change I will still be who I am and I will still get on some peoples nerves and have more than my share of limitations no matter how much I change. In turn I will see all our sisters who are also struggling with what it means to manifest the power of the resurrection in their lives and I will see their scars. I will experience how much they have changed and how far they still have to go. They will get on my nerves and be as limited and broken as I am.
But maybe the ultimate meaning of these stories is that each of us becomes Christ for one another. In community we are being called to be the presence of Christ for one another and put our hands into the scars of each sister who is Christ for us. We put our hands into one anothers scars and know the reality that our deepest wounds are also the tangible proof that God’s love conquers the power of death in our lives. By Christ’s wounds we are healed, in our own wounds and the wounds of those around us we touch the reminder that the power of the resurrection is at work in our lives.