John 20:19-31 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Reflection I imagine the room was stuffy and thick with fear. The disciples pacing, crouching, peeking out a small window opening. They were locked in for fear that they too would be persecuted and crucified for being friends with Jesus, for being part of that stange Jesus movement that was in opposition to the status quo. I wonder if the disciples were also locked in because they were horrified with themselves, mortified that in the end they all abandoned their friend and teacher, Jesus.
Every year during the Good Friday liturgy when we recall to heart the story of Jesus’ passion and death we sing or hear the haunting lyrics of the old spiritual “Were you there when they crucified my Lord...?” Twelve times we repeat the question... were you there? were you there? Every year I imagine myself standing there, helpless, hopeless, watching. But this year I realized my answer was no, I was not there. I was not there when Jesus was crucified because Jesus is crucified by my absence, not my presence. Jesus is crucified when I, like the disciples deny I know him, fail to proclaim my faith, forget to love my neighbor and hide in my little skin house afraid to allow the fullness of the Light of Christ to shine through me. So when I read the story of the disciples hiding I can smell the fear and taste the remorse throbbing behind the locked doors of their hearts. The only thing I can imagine that would set them, and me, free are Jesus words, “Peace be with you.” To feel the peace of the Lord in my heart is to know that even though I abandon him, he never abandons me. That is the peace that passes all understanding. That is the peace the risen Lord restored to the broken hearts and troubled minds of the disciples that “evening on that day, the first day of the week, (when) the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear...”
The promise of Easter is fulfilled when the Peace of the Lord arises to set us free, to unlock the door of our hearts and unleash the chains of our minds. Alleluia!