In the gospel of John we read: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20,19) It is a new day, the first day of the new creation in Christ Jesus, and the disciples are hiding behind locked doors out of fear. Fear is a powerful force in a person’s life. Fear encourages locked doors. Fear causes us to hide ourselves and seek protection. When we are afraid we close everything down and we are frozen in this moment of time, paralyzed and unable to move forward in life. Fear is one of the results of Original Sin. We are told that after Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God, and when he called out to them, they answered him, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” (Gen 3,10) The disciples of Jesus, after experiencing the horror of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, are feeling naked and vulnerable and so are hiding themselves behind locked doors. The Good News of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is coming to them but they are not yet ready to hear that news. Luke tells us that upon hearing the report of the empty tomb from the women who carried spices there early that morning, “their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.” (Lk 24,11) They are filled with doubt and anxiety. Certainly they do not yet understand what joy and peace awaits them on this first day of new life in the Risen Christ; the first day of the New Covenant which was sealed in the blood of Christ and which promises mercy and the forgiveness of sins.
As we celebrate Easter day in this Octave of Easter, we still encounter a world that is filled with locked doors. There is a lot of fear in our world at this time. In this fear, we go into “lock-down” mode and shut ourselves off from the Good News of new life in the Risen Christ. To the world, the story of the resurrection of Jesus seems like nonsense. In the world, we are painfully aware of our vulnerability, our weaknesses and our sinfulness. On the new day of the Risen Christ there is so much potential for “living in the newness of life,” (Rom 6,4) but we are stuck behind the closed and locked doors of our hearts. Saint Pope John Paul II pleaded with the world at the beginning of his pontificate and on the beginning of this new millennium” “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” He writes in his letter, Dives in Misericordia, “Christ, precisely as the crucified one, is the Word that does not pass away, and He is the one who stands at the door and knocks at the heart of every man, without restricting his freedom, but instead seeking to draw from this very freedom love, which is not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of man, but also a kind of “mercy” shown by each one of us to the Son of the eternal Father.” (DM,8)
Jesus, in his love and mercy, is able to pass beyond the closed and locked doors of the human heart and reveal to the world the love of God the Father. He shows his wounds of suffering, no longer a cause for shame but a pathway to eternal glory. The wounds of Christ, caused by sin, are now a sign of his love unto the end and of his divine mercy. Saint Pope John Paul writes, “Believing in the crucified Son means “seeing the Father,” means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-a-vis the reality of the evil that is in the world, affecting and besieging man, insinuating itself even into his heart and capable of causing him to “perish in Gehenna.”” (DM,8)
John reveals to us in his letter to the Church, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1Jn 4,18f) Fear has to do with punishment but love has to do with mercy. To experience and believe in God’s Divine Mercy is to be perfected in love. Jesus taught his disciples that they must, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6,36)
Jesus gives the gifts of mercy to the disciples as he breathes the new life of the Spirit into them and they become a new creation. He gives them the commission to forgive sins so that others may also believe in the mercy of God. Now is the great day of mercy, the day of forgiveness and new life. May we use the gifts we are given to be perfected love.