Gospel JN 20:19-31
The Gospel begins with Easter Sunday and ends with the Sunday after Easter. On Easter Sunday the disciples were still mourning the death of Jesus, and even though they had heard reports that the tomb was empty and that Jesus is Risen, this reality was too much for them to accept and they remained in fear hidden away behind the locked doors of the upper room. This was same upper room where they had only days earlier celebrated the Passover with Jesus and were probably already referring to it as the “Last Supper.” While Jesus had been buried in a tomb of rock, the upper room was becoming their tomb.
Jesus enters the room despite the locked doors and stands in their midst. He greets them with words of peace and they are overwhelmed by his presence. When the absent Thomas arrives afterwards, they can’t wait to tell him that Jesus is truly risen and that he had visited them in this upper room. We are all too familiar with response that resulted with Thomas being forever known as “doubting Thomas,” and we tend to let that distract us from the much more important message of this Gospel. We are told that a week later they are still in the upper room and the doors are still locked. We know that Jesus Rose from his tomb a week earlier, but for the Apostles the Upper room has truly become their tomb, and they are still locked inside. They are in fear and afraid to go out even after the experience of seeing the Risen Lord. Jesus appears again and takes Thomas on the words he spoke to the rest of the disciples a week earlier, and invites him to put his hands in the wounds in his hands and feet. Thomas doesn’t have to, he then makes a profession of faith. It seems that it is only after this visit of Jesus through the locked doors of the upper room that the disciples were able to leave fear behind and venture out of the upper room.
The image of the disciples locked in the upper room in fear, as if in a tomb, is a good image for us to reflect on as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Even though we profess our faith in the Risen Lord who died to take away our sins, we can look at our lives and wonder if God truly loves us. We can even be in fear that God doesn’t love us and that we are the exception when it comes to the forgiveness of sins. We can even begin to isolate ourselves from God and His life-giving presence. This second Sunday of the Easter Celebration is one that is meant to reinforce in us the reality of the depth of God’s love for us. A love that is far greater than any fault, failing or sin that we have. His mercy is His gift to us and he is just waiting for us to accept this gift, to unwrap and allow it to fill us with his mercy, love and peace. During Easter we celebrate the greatest event in human history, Jesus overcame death, left the tomb and is Risen Lord. Jesus did this so that we can be spared eternal death and, at the end of our earthly existence, enter into eternal life. If for whatever reason we are trying to hide from God behind the locked doors of a self-imposed tomb, let us welcome the Lord in to receive take away our fears and fill us with his peace.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Christ warns Peter in the Upper Room, Giovanni Domenico (1727-1804).