Second Sunday of Easter: Peace Be With You

Today's readings. 

Why is it that you're here today?  Is it because your faith is what carries you through the highs and lows of life, because you need to worship in order to be empowered to live?  Is it because the Word of God and the life-giving Eucharist is central to who you are and vital to the service that you give?  Is it because your prayer life begins and ends in the gathered community that has its source in Christ?  Is it because you came to the 9:30 or 11:30 in the Chapel last Sunday and you heard the deacon give an incredible homily and you just couldn't stay away?

Or are your motives a little less lofty?  Are you here because your parents pestered you until you gave up and came to Mass?  Are you here because that's what you always do on [Saturday Evening] Sunday Morning?  Are you here because you are afraid of having to confess that you didn't come?  Are you here because you are lonely, or had nothing else to do, or are desperate that God change your life?

The good news is that if our reason for being here today is less than perfect, we have ten patron saints locked up in that room in Jerusalem.  For fear of the Jews they are together, clinging to one another, mourning their lost friend, wondering what would happen to them, and trying to make sense of the empty tomb that Mary Magdalene, Peter and the beloved disciple found earlier that day. 

It doesn't matter what brings us together in this sacred place, because what really matters is that at least we are together; at least we are here.  And it really is an act of faith to come together every week.  More so now, perhaps, than ever before.  It would be so much easier to give in to the many scandals that keep people from the Church these days.  It would be far easier for all of us to give in to the embarrassment of being Catholic that we surely must feel every time we turn on the news these days.  It might even be understandable to find someplace else to worship, or for priests not to wear their Roman Collars in public, or for seminarians to give up pursuing the vocation to which they've been called.  But, for whatever reason, we didn't, and because we are here, together, with all of our fears and embarrassments and frailties, our Lord, in his Divine Mercy, can break through all those locked doors and say to us as he said to the Ten: "Peace be with you."

It might be easy to give poor Doubting Thomas a hard time, but it cannot be so for those of us who come here with all our fears and doubts and uncertainties.  Because it is Thomas who speaks for us these days, when we would just as soon find some reason to write off what we've been taught and to do something else.  For those of us with modern minds who cannot and will not believe merely on the word of others, Thomas, who would not believe on the mere words of the Ten, is our spokesman.  For everyone for whom seeing is believing, Thomas's resolve to withhold judgment until he saw the Lord's hands and side is our statement of faith – such as it is.

And I think I can understand Thomas's behavior here.  For whatever reason, he was missing from the group when the Lord came and appeared to them that first time.  He certainly must have felt left out, and perhaps hurt that he was not given the same gift that they were.  And we must remember that the Ten were all unbelieving before they saw Jesus' hands and side too: only upon seeing that were they able to exclaim: "We have seen the Lord!"

Thomas was given the opportunity to have a much more intimate experience of the Risen Lord than did the other ten.  He alone was invited to reach out and touch Jesus in his brokenness:  "Put your finger here," Jesus says, "and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side."  Here again, Thomas is invited to the faith in the same way that we are this Easter day, because we too will have the opportunity to reach out and touch our Risen Lord, broken and bruised, in the Eucharist in a few minutes.  As we take the Body and Blood of our Lord, perhaps we will hear the faith of Thomas crying out, "My Lord and my God!" 

It is very important, I think, to notice that every time Jesus breaks through the locked doors, he offers his peace.  In the very same way, Jesus is breaking through whatever it is that is locking us up these days and saying, "Peace be with you."  The peace that Jesus offers is not just the absence of whatever conflict we are experiencing, but more so, a wholeness that binds up our brokenness, heals our wounds, and calms the cries of our doubts and fears.  We have to know that it is that peace that leads us back to this sacred place, despite whatever it is that we think has brought us here this day.  It is that peace that helps us recognize our Lord, triumphant over the grave, who silences the doubt that we all experience when we are broken and our lives are crazy, and our world is a mess, and our Church is in disarray. 

It is that peace that brings us together to meet our Risen Lord, and which empowers us to go out in the same way the disciples did, to forgive and comfort and bless and heal and feed and love everyone in the Name of Christ.  We must remember that many have not seen the Risen Lord but may come to believe because of us.  And it is truly a sign of the Risen Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ, when we overcome our embarrassments and scandal and are united with each other. It is a sign of the Risen Lord when we, with all of our fears and doubts and imperfections, continue to serve others in the name of Christ.  When we do that, perhaps others will see the presence of Christ in us and exclaim with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"

So, whatever it is that has brought you here this day, please hear the words of the Risen Lord as he breaks through the locked door of your own woundedness: "Peace be with you."