The Body of Christ

monstrance

Howdy everyone! I’m still doing fantastic and enjoying life very much now that I can breathe. I did a six-minute walk test at my first pulmonary rehab today and I shattered their previous record of 2200 feet. I did 2800 feet and jogged the last minute and a half. The physical therapist was in tears and said, “This is why I became a therapist.” Praise God!

I wanted to take this blog post to reflect on something that has been bouncing around in my head ever since I got my brand new breathers, and that is the simple fact that the risen body of Jesus still had its scars from the Crucifixion. It is a beautiful and perplexing fact. Why would Jesus allow himself to keep the permanent reminders of his torture and death? It’s an important question, because after all, this is the same body that we receive in the Eucharist—the risen, mystical body. St. Thomas Aquinas reflects on the same thing in his Summa Theologica, question 54, The quality of Christ rising again:

Article 4. Whether Christ’s body ought to have risen with its scars?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ’s body ought not to have risen with its scars. For it is written (1 Corinthians 15:52): “The dead shall rise incorrupt.” But scars and wounds imply corruption and defect. Therefore it was not fitting for Christ, the author of the resurrection, to rise again with scars.

Objection 2. Further, Christ’s body rose entire, as stated above (Article 3). But open scars are opposed to bodily integrity, since they interfere with the continuity of the tissue. It does not therefore seem fitting for the open wounds to remain in Christ’s body; although the traces of the wounds might remain, which would satisfy the beholder; thus it was that Thomas believed, to whom it was said: “Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed” (John 20:29).

Objection 3. Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv) that “some things are truly said of Christ after the Resurrection, which He did not have from nature but from special dispensation, such as the scars, in order to make it sure that it was the body which had suffered that rose again.” Now when the cause ceases, the effect ceases. Therefore it seems that when the disciples were assured of the Resurrection, He bore the scars no longer. But it ill became the unchangeableness of His glory that He should assume anything which was not to remain in Him for ever. Consequently, it seems that He ought not at His Resurrection to have resumed a body with scars.

I answer that, it was fitting for Christ’s soul at His Resurrection to resume the body with its scars. In the first place, for Christ’s own glory. For Bede says in Luke 24:40 that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxii): “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.” Secondly, to confirm the hearts of the disciples as to “the faith in His Resurrection” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Thirdly, “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Fourthly, “that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Lastly, “that in the Judgment-day He may upbraid them with their just condemnation” (Bede, on Luke 24:40). Hence, as Augustine says (De Symb. ii): “Christ knew why He kept the scars in His body. For, as He showed them to Thomas who would not believe except he handled and saw them, so will He show His wounds to His enemies, so that He who is the Truth may convict them, saying: ‘Behold the man whom you crucified; see the wounds you inflicted; recognize the side you pierced, since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter.'”

Leave it to Thomas Aquinas to give 5 compelling reasons for Christ keeping his scars. He clarifies further but I didn’t want to post the entire argument.

My scars have become my badges of honor and glory, thanks to Jesus. Not many people get to experience what I have in the past few months, and maybe that’s a good thing. It all happened so fast and it’s such a unique experience. I’m certain that this transplant is a privilege that I get to experience, instead of an ordeal that I have to go through.  As Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is a privilege for everyone to be able to live by faith in the Son of God, but the line that is really sticking with me is “the life I now live in the flesh.” In the Eucharist, we receive the flesh and blood of the risen Jesus, a flesh and blood that was in a glorified state and not bound by the laws of nature. While the Eucharist keeps my soul alive, another human being’s mortal flesh keeps my body alive. My body is, in a sense, glorified from what it was just a few months ago—scars and all. I haven’t felt this good in mind, body, and soul in probably 10 years. All I can say is thank you, Jesus!

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