A friend recently sent me the link to the John Paul II Healing Center website, and immediately upon clicking the link, I was captivated. This image of Jesus guiding Thomas’ hand to touch His side while two others look on caught my attention, and I have not stopped thinking about it since.
Upon further research, I discovered this painting was done by Caravaggio from 1601-1602, and it is titled The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. This work was born from Thomas’ words to Jesus in John 20:25, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
I pondered this painting as I gazed upon the Blessed Sacrament one day, and the Lord guided my prayer in many directions. I encourage you to pray with this image and the doubtful words of St. Thomas yourself, but I also wanted to share a bit of where the Spirit guided my own thoughts.
As I knelt and adored the Eucharist, I was struck by the reality that adoration is one of the most vulnerable spaces on the planet. We come and take down every wall and every mask. We are stripped naked, and we are given the space to come and bear our souls. We cannot hide, and we cannot cover pieces of ourselves that we do not want to be seen. In this space, we are free to be entirely seen. We are free to be vulnerable.
Jesus is vulnerable too, though. He is exposed and stripped down. He wears no robes or clothes of glory, and it is here that He teaches us how to be vulnerable.
When He climbed up on the cross, He was stripped of all that showed He was God. No part of the crucifixion screams High King or Son of God. It doesn’t make sense that the Creator of all creation would choose to die. However, then He rose again, and when He rose, He claimed His wounds.
His wounds look different than yours and mine, but they are still there. My wounds are a result of sin and the broken world that we live in. His wounds are a result of taking on that sin, and he invites us into those wounds. He doesn’t hide that He was broken. He doesn’t use His brokenness against us. Actually, He invites us to touch His wounds and live in them.
Jesus chooses to go a step further, though, and He flips the invitation around. We are invited to touch His wounds, and then He asks if He might touch ours.
At first, it will hurt for Him to touch those places. They are tender, but His touch is one of complete healing. He will not force Himself upon us, but when asked He does not withhold healing or wholeness.
He never would have been able to invite people into His wounds if He had not been vulnerable and stepped onto the cross to begin with, though. It’s true, being vulnerable means taking a risk. It requires uncertainty and emotional exposure, and it strips us down opening us up to potential further wounds.
Vulnerability is what allows us to love and be loved.
Jesus could have covered up the gash in His side, but in doing so Thomas would have continued to doubt. In order to be loved and received by Thomas, He needed to be vulnerable. Inviting people into the wounds can be uncomfortable, and I can guarantee that there WILL be wounds. That’s part of having a body: it gets broken.
Only good came from this invitation from Jesus, though. In the next verse, John is very careful to make sure we know that Thomas was with the other disciples in the Upper Room. Jesus didn’t lose Thomas by showing his vulnerabilities. Rather, He gained Thomas for eternity.
This can be scary. Trust me, I know it all too well. I know the fear of letting Jesus touch me where it is tender. What if He pries the wound open? What if it hurts? What if the wound is too ugly or too deep or too much for the Lord to handle?
He always seems to say, “But, Child, what if I heal you?”
I do not want to be a bystander. I do not want to stand on the sidelines or in the background. I want to be in the midst of it all, and I want Jesus to touch me daily.
The beautiful thing is that as Catholics we actually have tangible access to that. We actually have access to the Body that was broken for us, and we are invited daily to receive the Eucharist and touch His wounds. His invitation stands, and only our response to the question remains. Can Jesus touch your wounds? Does He have permission to heal you? Will you receive His vulnerability and give it back?
Sweet Jesus, put Your fingers in our wounds. You won’t pry, but You want access to every space. Be gentle, our Good Physician, and leave no tissue untouched.
Allison Dale is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying human development & family science and anthropology. She converted to the Church in September, and she finds joy in hammocking, long walks, little flowers, and pretty words. Her greatest joy, however, is being "big C" Catholic. You can find more of her words here.