Monday, December 11, 2017

scarred resurections

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” —John 20:27

The cross in the cemetery was a beautiful ebony signpost in the snow in the morning grey after dawn. Throwing snowballs into the woods, I wondered how heaven will work, what it means to be unified completely in God with those who have wounded us?

Instantly, I feel silly posing such a self-pitying question, asking it directly under the gaze of the one who invites us into union, who actually desires us to be with him, even as he suffers the wounds of our rejection. How many times have I hurt him? (Answer: countless.) And has he yet once said: "Yeah, I'd prefer if you didn't show up for the beatific vision, because it will be really uncomfortable and unenjoyable for me with you there, because you're a grade-A piece of $#*% and have unforgivably offended me a countless number of times and these scars aren't going to go away, hon. See ya." (Answer: no, he has never said that, although I would find him completely justified in doing so.)

Perhaps this is what it means to have wounds on a resurrected body. I am constantly befuddled by wounds on the risen Christ. Why are Jesus' wounds glorified? Why are they still present in his glorified state? It must be because, as representatives of his story—the story of salvation, of God's love in the history of the world—they have attested to the power of love in overcoming sin.

I don't imagine crosses are present in heaven, but what more perfect testament to the love of God for the world than the wounds on Christ's body. How can glory and perfect beatitude encompass worldly pain and hurt? Through Jesus' wounds, it might seem that the brokenness of our world and of our lives is not negated, erased, or annihilated when they come into union with God. Somehow, it is still remembered, it is still present. Does the Incarnation mean that God is somehow able to incorporate into his own self that which is fundamentally not-God?

What must Thomas have felt, sticking his finger in the wound of Christ? Was it guilt? Fear? Remorse? Terrible, terrible grief? Wonder? Forgiveness?

What will each of us feel, seeing Christ's wounds? Being eternally reminded of the wounds he suffered for our sake? What will feel, seeking the wounds we have inflicted upon others? What does it mean to be declared forgiven, not innocent? What does it mean to inexorably guilty, yet forgiven—and still loved? I do not know. I experience this every day, every confession, every "I'm sorry," and I still do not know what reconciliation can look like. Does reconciliation mean expunging the past? Or is reconciliation something stronger, sterner, deeper? Something that reaches into all our guilty, sordid lies, and reconciles them with the glorious symphony of truth. It transforms our discord into harmony. How is this possible?

Any answer to those questions would be pure speculation. But, perhaps the point is that the action of heaven is somehow continuous with the action of earth. The whole point about faith and works means that what we do here matters. What we make of ourselves here on earth is not going to be forgotten, but glorified, it will be shown to be what it truly is: great and terrible beauty.

Somehow, the stories of our lives will be remembered, considered not through our eyes, but through the lens of love. And will that love redeem what it sees? Will it somehow transfigure and glorify those memories so that they can be present among the blessed?

I imagine so. Because to believe in cross and resurrection is to believe in the power of love to triumph over even death, lies, broken relationships, or wounds that cannot heal. Love, like memory, does not annihilate what has been, but ponders it in her heart. Perhaps it is by this very act of pondering, subjecting the sorry subject matter of human history to a gaze of love, that we are able to begin to transform even swords that pierce our hearts into signs of love's presence in a broken world.

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