When Jesus appeared to His Apostles after the Resurrection, His hands, feet, and side still bore the marks of the crucifixion. His glorious, death-conquering body held the holes that won salvation. To be certain, His body was different than it was before. He was strangely appearing and disappearing, passing into locked rooms, and yet still able to eat and be touched. Dying and rising had changed His body. Gone was the appearance scarred beyond human recognition. However, His body still showed where nails and a spear had pierced Him through. Why was that?
There are several theological reasons, but I would like to focus on one minor, personal reason. I would argue that Christ kept His wounds to destroy our image of perfection. Here is the conquering King, the One who has fought death and won and yet–He still shows signs of this arduous battle. As the commander of this battalion, as the King who leads His people into battle, Christ is not unaware of the price of this fight. Our whole lives seem to be a battle towards Heaven. Christ doesn’t need perfect looking soldiers; He simply needs faithful ones.
The burden of perfection is one we place upon ourselves. We want lives that are neat and tidy, yet none of us have it. Sometimes we brand others as perfect, but that is only because we see portions of their lives and not the whole of it. And when we expect this perfection from them, we encourage them to fake it instead of living authentically.
Often, when I tell people that my two older sisters are religious sisters, I can see them mentally placing my family in a certain type of box. Years ago, I gave my witness in preparation for a summer of catechizing youth, and one of the critiques I received was that teens probably couldn’t relate to my story. While I understood what they meant, I couldn’t help but take it a bit personally. My story of an aching heart being separated from my sisters was not something they deemed relatable. Since then, I have discovered that it is something to which others can relate. Perhaps they don’t have siblings in religious life, but many have experienced anger and frustration with God and a plan you never wanted for your life.
From the outside, though, it looks perfect. It can be burdensome to try to live the perfection I think others expect of me. So I try to remind myself that that is not my cross. The Lord is not asking me to create a facade of perfection. Instead, I willingly tell people that having sisters in religious life is a great gift but also a struggle at times. I try to write sincerely here about my tangled, messy heart instead of convincing you I have it all together. I don’t want to carry the weight of needing to always be perfect. And Jesus doesn’t want me to, either.
The Lord appeared to the Apostles with imperfect wounds in His glorified body. In fact, it was the presence of these unsightly wounds that convinced the Apostles that He was Jesus, their teacher and friend. These imperfections and wounds that we have can be used by the Lord for His greater glory. When others see that God uses broken, imperfect people to do His will, then they are encouraged to surrender themselves, just as they are, to His plan. This isn’t to say we don’t strive to become the saints we are called to be. Instead, we acknowledge that while we are not perfect, the Lord can perfect us. Our wounds and weaknesses will instead become signs of God’s glory working in the midst of a beautiful, broken world.