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Easter 2 B John 20:19-31, ~"Spending Time Behind Locked Doors" ~ Rev. Richard Eslinger


Our environment shouts to us all that Christ is risen,…risen indeed! The white and gold paraments and vestments, the flowers, our Easter hymns, and even our own dress proclaim that the world has completely changed because of what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead. On the other hand, there is a brutal starkness to St. John’s description of the disciples on the evening of that First Day. They are huddled together as darkness falls, having locked the doors to their room of assembly. They are afraid, filled with fear. In all three years of the Lectionary, this Gospel lesson confronts us on the Second Sunday of Easter. In our Easter mode of celebration, we ask “Why in the world do these disciples lock themselves in, away from the world, filled with fear? They have heard that Jesus is risen from the dead, so why are they acting as if he is still “sealed in a stone-cold tomb”?


Of course, the answer comes quickly. Even though we paste a smile on our face when in the company of other faithful, it is the same for our recurrent script, our own darkness. Our own fear, that deep sense of dread with its bodily symptoms of anxiety. The ways in which, at times, we may lock ourselves into that darkened

space because of the fear of what is out there. Of course, there are times when what is “out there” honestly does bring fear and a retreat into hiding.


Remember the video of those Jewish students at New York University after October 7th, barricaded in the sanctuary of an upper room in the university library? Outside that locked entrance a mob of students had gathered and pounded on the door. “Let us in!” they chanted, again and again. Filled with fear, retreat into hiding. What is “out there” at times does result in a need to flee to

some safer place and hole up away from whatever threatens us.


But odder yet is the chronology that St. John provides for these disciples as they spend time behind their locked doors. They have heard the good news. That early morning while it was still dark, Mary was weeping at the tomb and heard the same question: “Why are you weeping,” first from two angels and then from her Teacher. Mary, the apostle to the Apostles, dashed from the garden and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” So it makes you wonder, at first glance, why this behind locked doors response to Mary’s glorious news? But

we know this puzzling reaction to bright promise and glorious news is not all that strange. At times, the possibility of a new life, with the healing of old wounds and the promise of a new calling feels more like a threatening mob beating on the door of our soul, shouting “Let us in. Let us in!” This is familiar to so many that perhaps the real name for this Second Sunday of Easter might be “Anxiety Sunday.” We hear the prayer after we have spoken the Lord’s Prayer, that we be “safe from all distress,” and yet even find such blessing distressing. Such change is

always disrupting, but there are times when good news fills us with anxiety, precisely because we have armored ourselves to expect only “more of the same” and feel that is all we deserve.


Spending time behind locked doors can also come in this odd way—the announcement of some good news threatens our rituals designed to keep us safe; we are not sure we could endure the unlocking of these doors. But the locked doors are suddenly obsolete! Jesus comes and stands in their midst.

Locked doors are no security against resurrection life! He says to them, “Peace be with you.”


There is no call from outside beckoning these disciples to consider that it is Resurrection Day and therefore they should risk unlocking the doors. He stands in their midst and shows them his hands and his side. The risen Christ still shows forth his suffering and death. It is Jesus of Nazareth who is risen from the dead and the wounds abide throughout eternity. At the Easter Vigil, outside the worship space, the community of faith has gathered for the blessing of the

Paschal Candle. It then is shared and fills place of worship with Christ’s Light, which is undying. The prayer of blessing concludes,

By His holy

and glorious wounds,

may Christ the Lord

guard us

and protect us. Amen. 1


O the prayer, five grains of incense are placed on the Candle, each representing one of Christ’s wound on the cross. The same candle whose light is a sign of the undying light of Christ also proclaims his passion and death. This is the One who stands in our midst and announces to us, “Peace be with you.”


Now some find such continuity between the Lord’s death and his resurrection as a scandal. On one hand, some prefer just to let Jesus remain dead of his wounds, a prophet suffering a martyr’s death, but ultimately a tragic ending. These folks have a vested interest in keeping Jesus that deceased victim of violence and ppression. Their ideology centers in a world of violence and trauma where they are the sole heroes. Even some social justice preachers re-center the heroic act to be that of the preacher standing in the face of the principalities and powers. No need to have Jesus’ wounds “yet visible above.” On the other hand, there are others (dating back to the first proclamations that Jesus is risen) who respond that a truly spiritual Christ must not be sullied by suffering, must not be tainted with death. These are the people who imagine a world more perfect than ours which can be reached by “spiritual growth” that leaves all sorrow and pain behind.


Two problems here for such “spiritual” folks. They can be remarkably selfish in their spirituality and exclude those who suffer from their circle. But they also, ironically, exclude the risen Christ who stands in our midst, and who shows us his wounds. It is this risen Jesus Christ who announces “Peace be with you.” And it is only this risen Lord Jesus who brings the peace that is eternal.


Then comes a cascading series of sendings. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Jesus proclaims. From now on, those who are baptized in Christ are “the sent.” We come up from the waters of our Baptism and are brought by grace into the community of “apostles,” of those who are sent into the world. Our challenge is to discern what aspect of apostolic mission is uniquely ours, by virtue of the baptismal gifts of the Holy Spirit and the particularly needs and crises in our world. Some of us may start and maintain a feeding ministry to our neighbors who live in a food desert and who may be homeless. Others have received the gift of healing and are sent to some ministry in a hospital or home for elderly care. The vocations for social justice are varied and complex. One trajectory involves a commitment to the unborn while another finds allies in causes for racial justice. Another whole vocation invites us to be caretakers for the creation, joining with Pope Francis in a passion for the care of the creation and the restoration of the wholeness of life. Pope Francis’ prophetic statement links both facets of care: The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. 2


All of these outreach ministries are expressions of our Lord’s directive, “So I send you.” Even our more liturgical ministries—those employing our musical gifts and gifts for the public reading of Scripture, the careful love and work of sacristans, and the profound service of Eucharistic ministers—are also vocations of the “sent.” The liturgies and sacraments of the church are not only for the people of God, but are celebrated and enabled on behalf of God’s entire world. Inner ministries building up our worship or outer ministries of compassion for the world and all creation,… these all derive from our being sent, just as the Father sends the Son, so our Lord Jesus Christ sends us.


Now we desire to encounter our risen Lord, to see his wounds, and to receive his Body and Blood. The risen Christ breathes on us and announces, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Again, our Savior announces, “Peace be with you” and we will be sent back out into the world to proclaim the Good News and to serve the poor, the sick, and the homeless. What a blessing to receive his forgiveness and to have such freedom in Christ instead of needing spending time behind locked doors.

Amen.


1 An outstanding meditation on the symbol of the paschal candle is provided by Fr. Matthew Hawkins, Parochial Vicar, St. James Cathedral, Diocese of Orlando, Florida. See: “Mystagogy: The Paschal Candle and Christology,” April 19, 2021,

christology/#:~:text=It%20is%20significant%20that%20these,%2C%20plus%20the%20pierced%20side).

2 Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 66.

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