John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Upon reading this passage, the question we ought to ask ourselves in brutal honesty is: “What are the reasons that compel us to lock our doors? What are the fears that prompt us to seek protection within familiar walls while living with apprehension?”
There are many, too many reasons for our locked doors. Every morning, as we wake up, we might be tempted to add a few more, just for good measure. Then, as we read the papers and watch the news on TV we realize that our level of apprehension has to increase even though our minds could only handle a limited number of threats.
By now, we must have decided that we should not have to worry about terrorism or a global catastrophe because in either case we would be toast, instantly. What we fear most, then, is perhaps senseless violence, the total disregard for human life striking ever more closely to where we happen to be living, a future without decency, a future without any principles, a future with a total banishment of absolutes and of Truth.
Those among us who care deeply about their faith, must be also flabbergasted by the stunning erosion of religious freedom in this country and the direct and well-orchestrated attacks on Catholics who desire to conduct themselves according to the principles of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus as taught by those whom Christ has appointed shepherds and teachers over us.
Apart from this general umbrella of serious concerns, each one of us might want to add personal reasons for added trepidation. In such a climate, the good news that I, as one appointed by the Church to the priestly ministry of the Gospel, feel compelled to share with you is this: none of these reasons, none of any other reasons we might come up with can keep Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, away from us.
In case we might wonder why the number of reasons for locking doors has increased exponentially in recent decades, I can simply mention that it is because it has become fashionable and politically correct to live and interact without God. We see it in many of our enlightened political leaders who reason, operate and legislate as if God were a quaint, optional decoration at the fringe of our culture. Personally, I have more respect for atheists and agnostics than for those who claim to honor God, but have total disregard for His law.
Consequently, first of all, pity wholeheartedly those who do not want the Risen Lord to penetrate their familiar, comfortable walls to bring them peace. Let them toil in vain and torment their puny, little brains trying to figure out why we are in such a terrible mess and heading for moral annihilation.
As a shepherd, it is my duty to urge us to long for the peace that the Risen Lord desires to give us. It is my duty also to remind us that this gift of His peace is the real thing. It has little to do with the peace that those on the outside try to establish.
The peace, which Christ has won for us through his cross and resurrection, is the order and harmony that God the Father had introduced into the world at the beginning, at creation time. It is total harmony with our Creator God, with nature, with all peoples. It is freedom from sin and from the darkness, fear, confusion, anguish that sin breeds in our hearts. It is deep, lasting healing of our wounds. It is the condition for us to trust in Him again and to surrender serenely into His hands.
Pity wholeheartedly those who think that they can go it alone without God and His commandments.
Rejoice that, in his infinite mercy, the Risen Lord has breathed the Holy Spirit upon the first Disciples and upon their successors, bishops and priests, and given them the divine power to absolve or to retain sins; the power to bring about peace or keep someone from enjoying peace.
John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
What a tremendous, strictly divine display of mercy and love! How blessed we are to have our God made Himself so easily available under the humble species of Bread and Wine in Holy Communion. And what a tremendous, strictly divine display of mercy and of love to have at our disposal those men, chosen by Jesus himself, to forgive sins and to bring peace to our pained and confused hearts!
So, those of us who avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever their hearts are wounded and confused, should pity also those Catholics who, for whatever reason, (all silly, foolish, baseless reasons of course) have not gone to confession in over a year. Don’t they see the connection between those fears that keep them living behind locked doors and their sins?
To the extent that we feel visited by the Risen Lord, we have an obligation, in Christian charity, towards these foolish brothers and sisters of ours and towards all those who, like Thomas, have missed Christ’s initial irruption into our lives. We should not be bashful in showing what transformation, what degree of freedom Christ has bestowed on us through our prayer life, meditation on his Word and through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. And, if in our foolishness or missed opportunities, we have yet to experience a true incursion of divine grace in our life, I can assure you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is so driven and consumed by love and mercy towards us that he will do a repeat of what he did for Thomas back then.
He will come into our life for a special, personal visit. With incredible tenderness he will encourage us to touch him physically, i.e. by use of our senses: sight as with the reading of his Word, taste as in Holy Communion, hearing as in the words of absolution from our sins, touch as in holy anointing. After all, by divine decree, the Catholic Church is all about physicality.
Before the light of revealed truths, before the grasping of dogmas, before moral teachings and the law of love itself, she offers us her divine Lord as God in human flesh, touching and healing our human flesh. It is all about physicality on account of the Incarnation. Like Thomas, may we consider ourselves blessed for believing all that God has gifted us beyond what our senses have first perceived!