If ever there was a gospel that is right for these times, it is today’s gospel. Fear. People locked behind closed doors afraid to come out. And the usual problem – someone has to go out and get food, or visit an elderly relative to make sure they are alright. Then run back behind locked doors again. Fear, anger and upset-ness.
We can easily identify with the apostles; like them, we don’t know what is going to happen next. They are avoiding an enemy they can see – the religious authorities. We are trying to avoid an invisible enemy, one we cannot see. Like the apostles, we know life is going to be very different when we do finally emerge from our rooms. And we wonder when that will be?
I wonder if any of us ever go back to shaking hands? Only if you are wild, bold and daring.
Maybe the younger generation who are five-year-olds now, in order to drive their parents crazy as teenagers will go – ‘look Ma – I’m SHAKING HANDS!’ And we’ll say, “Ahhh don’t do that!”
Today’s gospel written 2000 years ago, feels fresh as if it was written for us now in the midst of the coronavirus. The era of the evangelist had no technology beyond the wheel, pulley and lever, yet this gospel speaks to the insecurity and FEAR we are feeling now. The ground had shifted under their feet. And OUR feet.
Yet. Jesus walks among us. Jesus walks right through a door; if he has to walk through a door to be with us, he will. Where is Jesus, NOW, we want to know.
He is here with us.
I only recently was sent this video, for Holy Week, and the Archbishop of Lima, Peru had a powerful message that is worth repeating on our Second Sunday in Easter.
Here in NY we are at the epicenter of contagion in the country, and it’s easy to forget that all around the globe, people are suffering just as we are. They don’t have enough PPE for their health care workers just as we are. And they too, have overcrowded ER rooms and people waiting in line to be tested. They too are feeling deep gratitude to their health care workers and others during this pandemic.
As I read the words of the Archbishop of Lima, Peru, remember also, farmers, truckers, maintenance workers. Put a face on the people who stock the shelves, the garbage collectors, all performing their jobs with humor and exhaustion, wearing masks, and we SEE CHRIST there with them, among them, working THROUGH them. The people of Lima, Peru are US. We are suffering together. Christ has walked through walls to BE with US in our suffering.
As I slowly read this, I want you to think of all the health care workers, doctors and nurses who come to mind.
The archbishop of Lima, Peru’s words: “Who says that Christ is not coming out this year when in fact he is dressed in white, blue and green in hospitals? Who says that the Nazarene cannot do penance when they are all sacrificing by attending to the sick in emergency rooms” [and putting their own lives at risk]? “Who says the Fallen Jesus is not coming . . .? Look at him in our doctors who fall tired and exhausted. With humble Simons of Cyrene helping with each step. Nurses, care-givers, janitors – side by side with them, without rest.
Like Jesus who passed through the earth on a donkey, so do our heroic truck drivers spend the nights awake: to supply markets, neighborhoods, pharmacies, and shops. The military and police patrol deserted streets, and they are not with their families, because they are taking care of ours. And far from our cities, Jesus is bent on the furrows of the earth. He goes to sea on a boat, lays cable, digs wells, and grazes the cattle.
Let no one say the Lord is not present in the streets, when in empty churches priests celebrate daily mass. Let no one say the condemned One is not coming out this year. As long as there is a kindly voice invoking the one locked up. Let no one say that the All-powerful One will not take his walk this year when so many are praying and offering their lives in love.
With tiredness, good humor, and without fail, Christ is also present in supermarkets, replenishing the shelves or charging at the cash register. Jesus comes in a truck, painted in white . . . collects our garbage and goes away unnoticed.
When I have seen so many people who have buried their own, I feel that even the Patroness of the slums, The Virgin of Sorrows, has come out with her Son on her lap. And even if passing through the Sepulcher frightens us all, THERE is where the strength lies, of the one who has conquered the world. Perhaps there will be no processions with carved images. But now you see Christ meeting you amid life. Hidden in a thousand faces, without candles, and bells. And . . . we will continue to smell the incense of the faith of your people. Love leaps over the walls, the heart does not lock up.” These are the words of the Archbishop of Lima, Peru; his words have gone all around the world. He says these words with weariness and grief, hope and faith.
True. The wounded Christ shows himself to his apostles and Thomas, and is HERE among us, SHOWING himself among the wounded struggling with the virus. I’m so impressed and humbled the news is FULL of people very deliberately doing acts of KINDNESS. And the media is very deliberately SHOWING us these acts of kindness. Jesus tells Thomas to LOOK, LOOK at his wounds. Look and be healed. We too, look and look and can’t look away from our tv screens to see what is the next breaking news. Where is the virus now? WHO has it claimed this time?
But we also we LOOK and LOOK and look at the instances of kindness. Love and kindness –
Where is Christ? There is New York City Sanitation Deputy Chief, James McGovern.
who set up a mini bar outside Elmhurst Hospital to give nurses a cocktail hour. Christ is in the Glenelg High School in Maryland high school robotics club that is using their 3-D printer to make plastic face shields for health care workers.
Where have YOU seen Christ this past week?
When Thomas says, Jesus, show me your wounds; he speaks for all of us. We want to see – has Jesus suffered like WE have suffered? Thomas speaks out of his hurt. Thomas is WOUNDED. He is FRIENDS with Jesus, he offered to go die with him in the chapter preceding the raising of Lazarus. Thomas is WOUNDED that he was left out, when Jesus showed himself to the others.
Jesus comes to EMPOWER them. Jesus breathes on them, and gives them the Holy Spirit. He gives them power to forgive or retain sins. We see Jesus equipping them for when they will leave the locked room. And they DO leave the locked room. We see the apostles going from isolation to faith. From fear to healing. They leave the LOCKED room. They become tigers for the gospel.
Where are we in this gospel? That’s easy. I don’t think you even need me to help you with that. We are all in the locked room. We HAVE to be in the locked room. We have to be behind the closed doors. We wish it were different, but we need to be there for our safety and the sake of health care workers. We are here with our fear.
Fear seems to be a part of our spiritual DNA, what we are born with. We seem to be born LOCKED into fear, like the apostles. Who wouldn’t be afraid?
Do you think some people seem to be more fearful than others?
Do you think we can do anything if we were born into a fearful family?
How does Christ or Christian community alleviate our fear?
Yet we look at others who are on the frontlines of this battle, the health care workers, the researchers, the maintenance workers, food service workers, and we see Christ moving among them. Where is their fear?
We see Christ when people do very deliberate acts of kindness, and then the news producers very deliberately put on the news to give us all HOPE. The internet and media are a blessing because they connect us, and help alleviate our isolation.
Have you been able to find any blessings among this pandemic?
PEACE, Jesus says. Peace to our fears. Peace to our anxieties. Peace. He promises to make a home inside us where we will have peace. This is what it means to LIVE in CHRIST.
Christ LIVES in us giving us HIS peace – the PRINCE of PEACE comes in every age and in every country to give US his peace. What an extraordinary gift.
What does peace do for us?
HOW does peace change things?
How does peace NOT change things?
Where or HOW have you found peace this week?
Lord, thank you for the peace you have given us. We could be more worried than we already are – yet you give us your peace. Your peace changes us. Help and heal the sick. Thank you we can find blessings even during a pandemic. Be with us. Shield us. Protect us. Help the health care workers in their time of need.
In Jesus Name we pray.