+ HOMILY +
2nd Sunday of Easter
07 APRIL 2002
FR. RUSSELL ZINT
ST. MALACHY CATHOLIC CHURCH
Scriptual Reference: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Jesus Breaks Into Our Panic Rooms

       There is currently a movie showing called "Panic Room." I had never heard of such a room before the release of this movie. A panic room is a special room, custom-built in the home of a wealthy person. There is steel plating all around concrete that has been poured in place. A panic room has its own electricity, air, telephone and surveillance systems. It is impenetrable. A panic room is a place where people would go if a burglar would break into their home. A panic room is a place to hide from danger.

       In today's gospel, the disciples are hiding in their own panic room. All of them had abandoned Jesus on his tortuous journey to Calvary, and Peter had denied him. The disciples feared the Jewish authorities that had put Jesus to death. They were scared senseless, and they were hiding from danger. Scripture says that the doors were locked on that Sunday evening when the disciples were gathered together. Then, something extraordinary happens. Jesus penetrates their panic room. Despite the locks on the doors meant to keep others out, Jesus appears before them. After all, there are no locks that can keep the risen Christ out. When Jesus sees his disciples, those who had abandoned him and denied him during his hour of need, he does not rebuke them. He does not chastise them or harangue them. Instead, he says not once, but twice, "Peace be with you."

       I heard a story once about an elderly couple. Aurelia and Floyd were known for being a little on the eccentric side. They were that aunt and uncle who always gave weird gifts for Christmas and birthdays. One year, Aurelia gave her husband Floyd a very strange gift for his birthday: she gave him a cemetery plot. Floyd thought this was unusual, and when he said this to Aurelia, she agreed that the gift was quite unusual. Floyd was anxious to see what Aurelia might give him for his next birthday. When it rolled around, Floyd was surprised to see that she didn't give him anything. "Dear," he asked, "why didn't give me a gift for my birthday?" "Because, dear," she replied, "you didn't use the gift I gave you last year!"

       In the gospel, the risen Jesus comes bearing gifts. But, he does not bring gifts symbolic of death; he brings gifts to give life. He breathes on the disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. This breath confers new life, just as God's breath formed and shaped the world in the story of creation. And Jesus offers another important gift: the forgiveness of sins. The disciples are now empowered to offer forgiveness in his name. Jesus sends them as the Father had sent him, to bring salvation to the entire world. The disciples are called to spread the gift of the Holy Spirit with others by offering the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

       Missouri is known as the "Show Me" State, a title that could apply to most of us who won't "believe it 'till I see it." This is a title that could apply as well to the people of Jesus' day. People in the Middle East, both now and then, all have a healthy skepticism about everything. "I'll believe it when I see it" is their motto. For instance, you never believe the storeowner when he says that he has the lowest prices in Jerusalem. That simply is an invitation to barter. Sadly, this skepticism keeps the Palestinians and Israelis at war with one another. They are so skeptical of one another that they cannot agree to trust one another.

       We shouldn't be surprised, then, that Thomas is skeptical when the other disciples tell him that they had "seen the Lord." He says, in a typically Middle Eastern way, "unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Then Jesus appears again on the following Sunday, with his greeting of peace, and immediately turns to Thomas. Jesus tells him, "put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." This action was meant to dispel the very real doubts that the disciples had about Jesus. By saying this, Jesus means to show us that he is not a ghost. He is living, flesh and blood: a real body. Thomas answers by saying, "My Lord and My God." For these disciples, seeing indeed is believing.

       You know, faith is tough. Faith means believing in what we cannot see. We don't have the ability to see the resurrected body of Jesus as the disciples did. We cannot probe his hands and his sides. That's why Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." He is saying that to all of us! Jesus knows that faith is tough. Faith is especially tough when we lock ourselves in the panic rooms of our own making. When we sin, we shut and lock the doors to our hearts and minds. We focus on everything else instead of focusing on our faith and our relationship with God. But Jesus breaks through the locked doors of our panic rooms. Granted, he does not come to us as he did to the disciples so long ago. Jesus comes to us, though, in powerful ways. He comes to us through the goodness of our loved ones and our friends. He comes to us through our parish community and through the sacraments that we celebrate. This weekend, our second graders begin to receive their first holy communion, and the Lord will come to them in a special way for the first time. Through faith, we learn to see the presence of Jesus in the faces our friends and family. Through faith, we come to see the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine that we bless in the Eucharist. Through faith, we open wide our minds and hearts to the forgiveness God has for us and we can then offer that forgiveness to others. Today, I ask you, why do you go to your panic room? And, I'm here to tell you: Jesus will break through our locked doors. He will burst into our lives and he has a message for each one of us: "Peace be with you." +



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