How often do you see yourself in the mirror? Not just briefly looking at you as you brush your teeth or fix your hair, but do you have a moment when you stare at yourself for a while or look you in the eyes in the mirror? You probably don’t do that very often. Neither do I. But when you happen to do it, do you always find you as a beautiful creation of God? Or, do your eyes see something else, something less than what you think you should be or want to be? Honestly, I am sometimes surprised to see a short and strange dude in the mirror. And I’m not satisfied with him.
In the mirror, we encounter our imperfection. Especially in our world where beauty is commercialized, we have many reasons to be dissatisfied with our self-image contrasted to the perfect images that the world demands and produces. We see perfect people leading perfect lives on TV. They seem free from all unattractive realities of our everyday life. Social media stimulates us with pressure and drives us towards perfection. “You need to be perfect!” “Your body should be perfect, your skin, your job, your family, your post-retirement life should be all perfect, and they are all perfectly achievable!” And they easily misguide us and make us think, “I must be doing something wrong” or “there is something seriously wrong with myself and with my life.” Indeed, if we look at us by the measure of perfection, there come endless reasons to be discontent with ourselves.
Today’s Gospel story shows us how unhappy and anxious the disciples were even with the news of Jesus’ resurrection. They have every reason to be sad. Why? Look at them. Their situation is miserable after Jesus died. They are brokenhearted. And they’ve already lost their faith. There’s nothing perfect in their lives.
It has been three days since the disciples lost their teacher and best friend, Jesus, on the cross. The disciples are still so much terrified and confused. Even though they heard the news from Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord,” they can’t do anything but remaining in the house (John 20:18). It’s because they know well that after the crucifixion of Jesus, they are also suspected as rebellions or possible criminals. What they can do is just gather together, lock the door of the house, and keep silent. And they don’t know how long they need to hide themselves behind the door.
But what they locked is not only the door of the house, but also their hearts hurt by loss and hopelessness in the aftermath of the death of Jesus. They are broken. The crucifixion of Jesus has completely taken away their only hope, the ultimate hope for the new life and the new world. They just try to deny, forget, and somewhat tolerate themselves with their seriously wounded hearts.
In this situation, what kind of faith can they hold? Their faith is imperfect, full of doubt. And this imperfection drives them to crave for perfect proof and evidence. Through the locked door and to their locked hearts, Jesus comes. He comes and says, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). As if nothing serious had happened, he greets them, “shalom.” But, the disciples cannot immediately recognize him. The Gospel tells us that only after Jesus showed them his wounds, “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). And Thomas, who was not there at that time, comes later and hears the witness of other disciples, but he doesn’t believe. He says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). A week after when the disciples including Thomas gather again in the same house, Jesus comes in again. And Jesus shows Thomas his wounds and asks him to put his finger and hand in them. Immediately, Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:27).
Then, the disciples were facing a situation far from the perfect ending they imagined. And to them, Jesus came in his resurrected body. But here, one thing we should remember is that this body was not perfect; it was still wounded. The resurrected body of Christ, which is supposed to be the most perfect body in full of divine glory, was not perfect by the worldly standard of perfection. It still carried the wounds, the scars from the cross. The resurrected Christ came to his imperfect disciples in his imperfect body. And he let the disciples freely see his wounds and even touch them.
What was the witness of the disciples who saw and touched the wounds on Jesus’ body? In the wound of Jesus, I believe they surely felt the everlasting love that does not just erase out the marks of violence, but rather, carries them to the eternity. The disciples surely felt the unfathomable love of God that is embodied in human flesh and willing to be broken on human side. Indeed, the disciples felt nothing but love… the divine love that does not demand their “perfection,” that does not seek their perfect selves or perfect faith, but the love that embraces them as they are and invites them to be “whole” in that love.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, I want to repeat this one more time. The love of Jesus Christ does not demand us to be “perfect.” Rather, it invites us to be “whole” in the love of Christ. The love of Jesus Christ does not ask us to be other than what we are. Rather, it assures us that we are loved and accepted as we are, even in our wounds. The love of Jesus Christ frees us from our illusory measure of perfection and leads us to discover wholeness abiding in the loving relationship with God.
Today, Jesus and his love set a different ground for us in this world of perfectionism: even in our imperfection, even in our brokenness, even in our wounds, we can be whole as his resurrected body is whole. And above all, we are loved no matter what. We believe the God who became in our likeness, was wounded like us, and suffered like us. And we know that this God truly understands our imperfection. We believe the Jesus, who transformed his wound of death into the womb of love, gives a wholesome new life to us. Let us abide in his love…and love God, love ourselves, and love others, so that we, as Easter people, may be whole like him from today. Amen.