Homily for April 11, 2010

Father Tom’s Homily
2nd Sunday of Easter
April 11, 2010

Today’s gospel begins with Jesus’ disciples hiding in shame, in fear, and in grief in the Upper Room. The locked doors of that room can be likened to the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb. Something in them died with Jesus.
His death was an extremely painful loss to them. It can be said that just as Jesus’ dead body was sealed into a tomb, so too the grieving disciples were locked away in the Upper Room.

They hid there in shame. Their leader had been arrested, tortured and publicly executed in the most shameful and pitiless way possible – by crucifixion. As his disciples, they shared his shame.
They also hid in fear. Since they were the followers of the condemned Jesus, they had good reason to be fearful in the climate of accusations that was sweeping the city of Jerusalem.
Those who had denounced their leader could be plotting to crush all of them.

In addition they hid in grief. Some of them had watched from a distance how Jesus’ battered and bloodied body was taken down off the cross and buried before sundown on Friday.
The rest of that evening and all day Saturday they wept bitterly at the thought of his cruel death and their sudden loss of their beloved leader who had been at the center of their lives.
They had so depended on Jesus. Now they felt terribly abandoned. He was the kind of person who could take care of things. No matter how difficult a problem might be, Jesus had complete mastery of the situation.

For example, no one had such control of the crowds. When he spoke to them, everybody listened. People came to him troubled with physical, mental and spiritual problems. They came on stretchers, in grief and in despair. Jesus was the one single person who could help them.
Some religious leaders tried to match wits with Jesus in public debates, and always failed. Even the stormy wind and waters of the Sea of Galilee obeyed him. Yet, they had watched him die helplessly on the cross.

Without Jesus their lives were without meaning. Their dreams and hopes died with him.
Their sense of community was unraveling. Among them there was some bickering and confusion.
And then, all that Sunday some members of the group had been running around with stories about the empty tomb. One of their group, Mary Magdalene, was going around saying that she had seen Jesus alive. But she was an excitable sort, a highly emotional woman. Not believable.
Jesus had been savagely executed by torture and crucifixion. It was all over.
It was the darkest of times. No wonder they were hiding behind locked doors.

That Sunday evening, however, Jesus comes to his confused and frightened friends. He breaks through their barriers of locked doors and locked minds and hearts.
And he does it in a most gentle and humble way. He greets them: “Shalom. Peace.”

He opens his garment and shows them the scars of crucifixion: the scars of the nails through his hands and feet. And the huge scar where the spear had pierced his side.
He invites his astonished friends to come close and touch his scars. And they do so timidly and quietly.
Jesus comes to his disciples because he couldn’t stay away. Read his words at the Last Supper in John’s gospel. His words of deep affection reveal Jesus’ love for each and every one of them. He could not stay away.
Love impelled him to come and unlock the tomb of the Upper Room and breathe life back into their grieving hearts and confused minds.

Jesus has come to show us who God is. Today’s gospel story reveals some important lessons about God.
First, he is an intrusive God who pursues us even behind our locked doors. A locked door says to everyone, “stay away.”
But we cannot shut this intrusive God out of our lives. He seeks us out, not as a truant officer, but as a great Lover. God ignores out “keep out” signs and comes to us in our darkest moments to bring us out of our tombs.

Jesus comes to his wounded friends, showing his own wounds. Here we have the second important lesson from this gospel story. Jesus reveals to us a God who bears scars.
A scarred God is someone who can understand the disappointments and failures of our lives. Everyone here this morning bears some scars from life’s troubles and tragedies.
In Jesus we realize that we have a scarred God who truly knows the turmoils that life can bring. He knew heartbreak and betrayal. He realized that he was a disappointment, even a scandal to many. He received insults and cruel torture.
As a result, Jesus can say to us” “Life is troublesome, I know it. Look at what it did to me. But I am with you through it all. You can count on me.” Because of his scars of accompaniment, we believe in him.

Jesus breaks through our locks and walls with a message. His message to us in our darkness and pain is “Shalom, Peace.” This is the third important lesson from our gospel story. Jesus reveals a God whose message is “Peace.”
God does not come at us, as bad as we may be, with accusations and condemnation. He wants us to have the thing we all desire more than anything else – to be at peace.

Today’s gospel brings us exceedingly good news. It tells us that Jesus is our risen, but scarred brother, who ignores our “keep out” signs and locked hearts, and whose greeting is always “Peace.”
He has breathed his Spirit upon us so that his loving Spirit lives in us. It is a new way of living. It is called the risen life.