In the painting by Caravaggio, Jesus takes Thomas’ hand whereupon Thomas fits his finger into the speared side wound of the risen Christ to confirm to Thomas that He is, indeed, alive. It is a dramatic image, and connects me to something John of Avila (1499 – 1569) said to his compatriot nun, Theresa of Avila to encourage her in understanding the mystery of her worth:
“How long will you continue in your minute self-examinations? It is like raking up a dust heap from which nothing can come but rubbish and unpleasantness. Feel sure that it is not for your own merits, but for those of Christ crucified, that you are loved and made whole. Do not give way to such discouragement about your faults. It would be far betterto be courageous and strong-hearted and to meditate on the benefits that you have received through Jesus Christ in the past and possess now… As I have often repeated, God loves you as you are… what more have you to wish for? In heaven, there is one to whom you appear all fair for He looks at you through the apertures of the wounds that he received for you. By these he gives you grace and supplies what is lacking in you, healing you and making you lovely. Be at peace!”
Like the young ruler in the encounter with Jesus, John of Avila found himself unable to ‘do’ enough to warrant his own sense of merit. John was stuck in bed when he longed to be a missionary in Mexico… And John, in his letter, invites his friend to embrace her adequacy in Christ, not her inadequacy in her own eyes. In a way, I now understand the perspective of John of Avila, that it is through an emptied self, a so constrained self, that Christ is able to work more fully. These letters to you, my friends, are part of that journey for me. May you each, in your own hearts, respond with gratitude for the high place you hold in God’s heart, and set aside your inability to make your own self, righteous.
My prayer for you is “may God’s mercy shelter you beneath His everlasting love and for this, I bid you hope”.
Please pray also for me, the same, and to the same Lord, who loves us all.
This Good Friday, may we see ourselves through the aperture of His wounds.