Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
Facebook and Google and some federal governments have invested much in facial recognition technology. How fascinating that Jesus invited his disciples to look at his hands and feet! Saint Luke twice uses that phrase, "hands and feet," apparently because they would recognize his extremities before they would know his face.
Only Saint John mentions the nails which pinned Jesus to the cross. That reference comes late, when Thomas wants to see the mark of the nails in his hands. Combining the texts of Luke and John we conclude that Jesus was nailed hand and foot to the cross.
Nails indicate permanence; when we nail things together we intend them to stay that way. If he had been simply tied to the cross he might have wriggled free. Nails leave permanent scars in wood and flesh; they will not disappear even in Resurrection. So now we recognize Jesus by the wounds in his hands and feet.
Despite our apparent preference for faces, we often remember the hands of our loved ones. If their faces change dramatically over the years; and, after they have died, we hardly know which portrait is "the real one;" their less photogenic hands remain familiar in memory. I remember the mottled skin on my father's hands, a genetic trait that, we learned much later, indicated Addison's Disease in the family line. I remember the powerful grip of a Marine, which he never lost as a maintenance man after the War. I remember my Mother's hands, roughened by dish and laundry soap.
Hands tell us much about the person. Face lifts and cosmetics may cover their age; hands give it away. Calluses reveal rough usage as do the loss of nails and fingers. Priests usually have soft hands which, in hard neighborhoods, indicate an easy life.
Jesus' hands were deeply scarred by the nails. Always, in icons and paintings, we notice the "stigmata." Like the cross, they are beautiful to us in that ironic way that only the faithful can understand.
But they are more than wounds, they are his identity. He could not be the Lord except for the wounds in his hands, feet and side. He could not be our savior if he had not poured himself out to the last drop of water and blood, to the last gasp of breath -- in his love for us. And so we pray that His Father might find us, in the Holy Spirit, worthy of so great a gift.