Locked doors… fear….worry…confusion…what lies outside? Is it safe?
What is true anyway? So many stories circulating, different accounts…When will it be safe to go out?
The backdrop to today’s Gospel account mirrors somewhat our situation today as we enter the second week of Easter. The disciples are sitting locked into a room, afraid. That very morning they will have heard accounts from the women about seeing the Risen Christ, how many believed it we don’t know. Certainly they weren’t showing signs of joy or excitement. They are locked in, afraid of the religious and civic authorities coming to arrest them.
We too are on lockdown, many of us are anxious, worried, others afraid.......not of arrest, but of a virus. Like the disciples our lives are changed and life seems safer inside. We are a week into Easter and yet the Alleluias ring hollow for many… What can this account of the Risen Christ tell us?
Through a locked room Jesus appears breathing peace and the Holy Spirit to give renewed hope and strength to the disciples to keep going. Only the first time Thomas isn’t there, and he is not sure what to believe. I think Thomas isn’t so much a doubting Thomas, but a very real Thomas who is very like us in many ways.
It was Thomas who asked Jesus a little while before his death, “we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way? And now in a locked room he is puzzled again , and struggling with his belief. He needs to see signs, proof…unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my hands in the wounds, I will not believe”.
And those are the questions people often ask. Where’s the evidence? If Jesus breathes peace in the world why is there war and destruction? If the resurrection promises new life why is there so much suffering and death ? Unless I see a change, unless there’s divine intervention, unless pain stops…how can I completely believe?
Thomas’ questioning mirrors many people’s need for proof, results, the struggle to really believe and have faith. And if we are really truthful at some point in our lives, the question creeps in…Is it really true? And that’s ok…I worry more if someone’s 100 percent certain! Yet the resurrection isn’t a case to be proved, if we think along those lines we lock ourselves more into the rooms we inhabit, we miss the point. The resurrection…Easter …is a way of living. It’s not a static once only event. As one of my favourite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins said: “Let him (Christ) Easter in us”. Let Christ live that new life of hope and resurrection in us. It won’t stop conflicts, war or devastation, but it bubbles in the energy of those who seek to brink reconciliation and peace. It won’t stop this pandemic, but it manifests itself in the love of those who offer care, compassion and support. It cannot mend a broken heart but it does in time blow through us to bring strength and peace. Living as Easter people, letting Christ Easter in us, means living in a new way seeing God in each other, in creation ,in the joys of life and also the pain. When we live as Easter people we can see the wounds of the world, just as Thomas saw the wounds of Christ, and see God there also. Easter Life is renewed life, different from the old life, because it is filled with hope and courage even in our own woundedness and that of the world.
Living Easter also means unlocking the invisible doors inside of us , those created by fear, mistrust, anger, grief…a bit like the disciples that first Easter. Unlocking them and allowing new life to flourish and grow, along with faith.
Thomas’ immortal words “My Lord and My God” meant he was the first disciple to see the divinity of Christ. While his companions still were locking themselves away, he had moved from wondering, doubt and questioning to the realisation of faith. His journey can give hope to us on our faith journeys. Peter in a similar way , went from speaking and acting without thinking, denial of Christ to the faith we see spilling out in the reading from Acts today and the building of the church. Faith isn’t something static , it grows, changes, develops as we travel, as long as we don’t confine it, as long as we don’t lock it away and forget about it.. One week into the Easter season and we are still in lockdown. People are still getting sick, precious lives are lost and suffering is still in the world yet in all sorts of ways Christ shows up breathing peace and offering the same strength he gave to the disciples that first Easter week. Communities are building bridges, food parcels are delivered and people volunteer to help in all sorts of unexpected ways. Church doors may be closed but faith is alive and so is Christ in so many different places.
So this week, have a look…where do you see Easter being lived ? What are the wounds you see touched in the world, in others, in yourself? Where do you see the risen Christ ? How do you live Easter?
Have faith…Look around you, look within you ….undo the bolts a little …and we too may say along with Thomas…my Lord and my God….I see you.