April 16, 2023 – Second Sunday of Easter

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041623.cfm)

I remember when we first experienced “LOCKDOWN” here in the City in 2020 due to the spread of Covid-19, the first Sunday was so depressing. I walked around the empty Church ground and looked at an empty Church. I was very sad and afraid of what will happen in the coming days when lockdown was imposed. Since, then, as the virus made more infections, we experienced the same face of lockdowns, with its different names, from GCQ, to MGCQ, ECQ to MECQ. Our movement was limited and the more it brought anxiety to many.

Those lockdowns were imposed as a defensive mechanism that the government believed and medical experts developed to minimize the infections. We followed and believed that those lockdowns were necessary to protect, save and even give life. Yet, I pray that we will never go back to that experience again.

Remembering those lockdowns, it evoked to me now a different kind of lockdown. This is  the self-imposed lockdown that can be life-threatening and life-depressing.

This is similar to the situation of the disciples,  who embraced a self-imposed lockdown as told by the Gospel on this Second Sunday of Easter. The disciples gathered in one place and locked themselves in because of fear. They were afraid that what happened to Jesus, may also happen to them. Certainly, this was a defensive mechanism of a heart that was 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 We become defensive and even withdrawn with others because we fear of being hurt again, of being rejected again, of being bullied again. And so, we develop a defense mechanism to the point of making ourselves isolated from others. Thus, we “lockdown” ourselves from any possible pain or hurt, because we are afraid of what others can do to us. We will tend not to invest emotionally in a relationship, or refusing to give oneself for others, becoming mediocre and complacent and to just stay at the comfort zone but remaining fearful.

However, fear makes our heart unbelieving. This happened to the disciples who refused 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.

Yet, 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.

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 and the walls of his heart have thickened to the point that he did not want any more to listen to what others were saying. 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-and-walled-hearts.

In God’s Mercy, Jesus indeed meets us  where we are at the moment especially when we decide to retreat to self-centeredness, to our old bad habits and addictions, to our unhealthy defensive mechanisms and self-imposed lockdowns of mediocrity and indifference towards 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 to recognize those attitudes, cultures, beliefs and experiences that continue to lock us away from others and from God. Be aware of those that are holding us back from fully relating to others and from freely expressing goodness, and those that make us withdrawn and indifferent to people around us.

May our encounter with the risen Christ, the image of the Divine Mercy make our locked and defensive hearts to open up as He brings us peace and sends us to others. This may move us to go out to touch the lives of others. Hinaut pa.


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