Jesus’ wounds were a means of his gaining salvation for us and for his bride, the Church.”
The wounded and risen Lord is the key
My favorite biblical image is from Revelation 5:6: “I saw a lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” In the verse just prior to that, we read that the heavenly court wanted someone to come forward to open the seven seals of the scroll and it was announced that “the lion of the tribe of Judah … has conquered” and he would open them. Then the lamb, not a lion, shows up. And what is more, it is a lamb that has been slain.
And in John’s Gospel, there is the account of the appearance of Jesus to the Apostles where Jesus invites Thomas to probe his wounds. The wounded and risen Lord is the key. Jesus is risen, but his wounds are always present.
This seems to me to be a perfect image for anyone who has suffered in any way, especially those who have suffered abuse from a cleric. The wounds do not go away. Even if those who have suffered have come to a sense of forgiving and some kind of reconciliation, the wounds remain. We cannot pretend that they will ever go away. Jesus models this reality for them and for us.
Now we know that Jesus’ wounds were a means of his gaining salvation for us and for his bride, the Church. Ideally, the wounds that all of us have from our own sinfulness, a sinfulness which we have repented, would serve to remind us of Christ’s deep love for us. He was without sin and yet wounded for us out of pure love. When our wounds are due to others’ sins, it is not so easy to place our suffering within Jesus’ wounds, even though he lovingly invites that.
This brings me to another reflection from this text. The Church too, the Bride of Christ, is to manifest the very wounds of Jesus as well. In doing so, she demonstrates Christ’s ongoing love for all humanity. The Church, however, also bears the wounds caused by all of us sinners, especially when any of us cause scandal. For 2000 years, this Church has borne these scars and will do so until the end of time. It is as though, even though she is Jesus’ Bride, she limps along through history because of us and yet is held up by Christ’s love and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
It is to be noted that the Lamb who was slain also appears standing, that is, resurrected. Jesus has shown his victory in rising from the dead. We must never lose sight of the great power of that victory and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to heal our wounds and those of the Church, even if the scars remain. The Book of Revelation is a constant reminder that Jesus has already overcome the world and evil. This gives us hope that we, too, will rise victorious over the pain and suffering endured in this life. His victory will not necessarily rid us of our wounds and scars in this life. But his redemption of us guarantees true freedom in the next.
It has always struck me that Advent and Christmas are not so much a birthday celebration of the Lord as the beginning of his ministry to us, a commitment that led to the cross. It is a feast of love. Thus, the ongoing sign of that love is the Lamb who was slain. In that spirit of love, I wish you all “A Blessed Advent and Christmas.”