April 19, 2020 – Second Sunday Easter and Sunday of Divine Mercy
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041920.cfm)
The word LOCKDOWN has become popular today given the situation we are in. At the outbreak of the virus that originated in Wuhan, China which has spread to many countries today, “lockdowns” have been imposed. This procedure is imposed to control and to minimize the spread of the virus to the public. As countries, regions, provinces, cities adopted such measure, now even small sitios or purok (a village) have their own version of lockdown.
We understand lockdown as a situation in which people are not allowed to enter or even to leave a building, or a property or an area freely because of an emergency (Cambridge Dictionary).
As this has been highly recommended by medical experts, then, our government leaders have to impose it for the sake of the citizens. Thus, its main reason is not to limit the freedom of the individuals but to control the virus, to slow down the transmission and infection and save lives. It is a defensive mechanism that we have developed today which we also realized as necessary. This, indeed, is a lockdown that protects, saves and even gives life.
However, there is another form of lockdown that is different from protecting, saving and giving life. It is the opposite. It is the “lockdown imposed by the disciples upon themselves” that we have heard from the Gospel today.
This is defensive mechanism of a heart that is hurt and bruised. It is a form of withdrawal from others and from God because of “fear.”
In a way, experiencing pain in our relationships also makes us more defensive the next time we relate with others. We become defensive and even withdrawn with others because we fear of being hurt again. Thus, we “lockdown” ourselves from any possible pain or hurt, because we are afraid of what others can do to us.
This happened to the disciples of Jesus. They lockdown themselves in a room because of fear. They locked the door to make sure that no stranger could enter. It was their way of protecting themselves because they were afraid that what happened to Jesus may also happen to them.
As a consequence, their fear prevented them to believe what Mary Magdalene proclaimed to them, that Jesus has been raised from the dead. They couldn’t believe her because they were too afraid. However, what was more interesting in the Gospel was on how Jesus appeared in their midst even though they made sure that the doors were locked. Jesus appeared to them and brought peace to the hearts of these fearful disciples.
Yet, we also find Thomas who was not there at that time of Jesus’ appearance, still holding on to his fears and doubts. Although all the other disciples have testified that they have seen the Lord, Thomas couldn’t accept it. He couldn’t believe, and because of that, his heart was more locked than the door. Thomas personally lockdown his heart.
That is why, Thomas, set a condition before he would believe that Jesus is alive. He said, “unless I will see and touch him, I will not believe.” Because of so much fear and doubts, Thomas insisted that condition in order to protect himself.
Just as Jesus met the other disciples in their own hiding place and so he did it also to Thomas. Jesus appeared once again and asked Thomas to touch his wounds so that he may believe. Jesus submitted to the condition of Thomas.
This is what the Gospel is telling us today – the Lord meets us wherever we are and he takes us seriously in all our fears, anxieties and doubts. When God meets us in our own hiding places and closed doors, He brings us peace to our troubled hearts. This is an assurance that in God’s presence we find peace and without Him we will always be disturbed and insecure.
This is the mystery of the Divine Mercy which we celebrate on this Second Sunday of Easter, the God of Mercy who brings peace into our troubled and fearful hearts, and who pierces through our lockdown-hearts.
In God’s Mercy, Jesus indeed meets us where we are at the moment especially when we decide to retreat to our own cocoons of self-centeredness, to our old bad habits and addictions, to our defensive mechanisms and self-imposed lockdowns from other people, and into our angry and irritable response to people around us. God meets us there and he wants us to know that He is with us and He brings us peace.
It is when we recognize God in those moments that Jesus invites us to touch his wounds just like Thomas. Being aware of the wounds and touching the wounds of Jesus means that Jesus feels our own pain and suffering, our fears and anxieties, questions and doubts. Hopefully, that experience will lead us to proclaim like Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” This is again an assurance to us that our God is alive and at work in our lives.
I would like to invite you now to be aware and recognize those attitudes, beliefs and experiencesthat continue to lock us away from others and from God. Be aware of those that hold us from fully relating to others and from freely expressing goodness, and those that make us withdrawn and indifferent to people around us.
Hopefully, our encounter with the risen Christ, the image of the Divine Mercy will make our locked and defensive hearts to open up as He brings us peace and send us to others. This may move us to go out to touch the lives of those who are in need by sharing what we have experienced with God, his goodness and generosity, faithfulness and mercy. Thus, even during lockdowns we can still show our kindness and generosity to those in need. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR