We enter Sunday’s Gospel narrative on the evening of Easter Sunday. The disciples have gathered. Notice the mention of the time and the day when this gathering occurs: it is the evening of the day of the Resurrection — Sunday. John notes it was the “first day of the week.” In the Gospels and in the Book of Acts we find again and again that the disciples begin to gather on the “first day of the week”. This marks the transition from the worship of the Lord on the Sabbath- Saturday- to Sunday, because of the Resurrection.
Perhaps the disciples are puzzled by the rumors sweeping through Jerusalem that something has happened to the body of Jesus. Four different individuals or groups have already claimed to have seen the risen Lord: first, there was Mary Magdalene. She had come running from the tomb to tell Peter and John that the body was gone. Returning later, she met Jesus outside the entrance to the tomb. Other women who had also been at the tomb saw him and worshipped him. Two people traveling the road to Emmaus had returned to Jerusalem, in breathless excitement, reporting that Jesus had appeared to them on the way and even sat for a meal with them. Then the word had gone out that Peter had seen Jesus. It is no wonder the disciples gather to discuss and grapple with all that has transpired.
But why are the disciples fearful and hiding in a room behind locked doors?
If the resurrection was such a life changing, life giving, event, why are they still fearful; in the same emotional place as they were on the night of the betrayal? What difference has the empty tomb made? How has it changed them? Has it led them to view themselves and the world differently? Has it done anything for them? It does not appear that the resurrection made much difference; they are in a house behind locked doors, afraid.
For us, it has been one week since Easter, one week since the chaos and excitement, one week since the empty tomb, one week since our “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.”
One week after Easter, what has Christ’s resurrection meant for us? Is our life different? Do we see and engage the world in a new way? What difference has the empty tomb made in my life over the last week? When we look at our lives, does it look a lot like it did last Saturday, the week before, and the week before that?
Perhaps we arrive to Easter Sunday and the empty tomb, and expect to wake up on Monday to a whole new life and world. But, most likely, we awoke on Easter Monday to the same life and world we had on Good Friday. It is not because the resurrection “failed”, it is because a dynamic faith is precisely that—it takes time; it is a process.
Indeed, this Sunday’s Gospel reveals to us that Christ’s resurrection is of great import, the empty tomb is a life changing event, the resurrection does make a difference in our lives AND that faith is dynamic.
Assimilating the life-changing and life-giving reality of the resurrection takes time. It is something we grow into. It is a process. It is a way of being and a life to be lived. We evolve into resurrection people through our relationship with Christ, with others, and through the circumstances of our lives. Every day we step into the resurrected life and it’s not always easy.
The empty tomb is a fact. Resurrection is a story; the facts are just the starting point for the story. The fact of the empty tomb is the starting point for the resurrection story. The fact of our birth is the starting point for our resurrection story.
Too often, however, we take the facts as the entire story. A good example of this is St. Thomas.
What facts come to mind when we hear his name? He was a doubter. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” That Thomas doubted may be the only fact we know about him. It is so all encompassing that we call him “Doubting Thomas” and have, since then, ascribed that title to a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.
That fact about Thomas, however, is just the starting point; it is not his whole story. Where we begin is less important than where we go, where we end.
Thomas brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of India. He died a martyr after he was run through with five spears by five soldiers. That doesn’t sound much like a doubter, does it? It sounds like someone who grew and changed, someone for whom the resurrection of Christ was real, someone for whom the empty tomb made a difference. It just took time, as it does for some if not all of us.
So well aware are we of “Doubting Thomas” that we forget “Confessing Thomas”. In today’s Gospel we hear Thomas declare, “My Lord and my God!” and with those words he recognized and named a new relationship, a new worldview, a new way of being. Between “Doubting Thomas” and “Confessing Thomas” is the story of resurrection in Thomas’ life.
Whatever our circumstances, there is the starting point for our story of resurrection. If we are dealing with frustration, loneliness, sorrow, or loss, that is our starting point. That is the room Christ enters. If we, like the disciples, are locked in a house of fear, confusion, bitterness, or darkness, there is the starting point and the room in which Jesus stands. It happens twice in Sunday’s Gospel. Two times the disciples are in a house behind locked doors and two times Jesus appears. He stands in their midst. The walls and the locked doors of their house could not keep Jesus out. And neither will the walls and locked doors of our house keep him out.
What are the doors in our life that we have locked? What keeps us stuck in the same emotional place? There is the starting place. We need only accept Jesus’ transformed and transforming presence. The Gospel urges us to recognize that he has stepped into our midst, through locked doors, to breathe in us, peace and life; the peace of hope, trust, and strength.
That breath of peace is the key that unlocks the doors. Let us take a deep breath, allow the love and life of the Risen Lord to fill and enliven us, give us the courage and trust to unlock and open all the doors of our life, and then, let us get out of the house!
Link to Sunday’s Scripture readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042422.cfm