“Be Not Afraid!…Swing wide the gates to Christ!”
Karol Wojtyla proclaimed this from the balcony at St. Peter’s Square back in 1978, the day he became Pope John Paul II. How fitting that today, as he is canonized in that same square, we read the gospel of Jesus “swinging wide the gates” of the Upper Room to banish fear and send his disciples out into the world.
I can totally relate to the disciples, huddled behind locked doors, afraid of what the Jews might do to them. They’re still in shock from the Crucifixion. Not only have their hopes been shattered; If Jesus could be tortured and killed as a blasphemous rebel – are they who followed him next? From inside that locked room, things look pretty bleak.
Imagine how they felt, when he showed up in that room, with them!
Fear can be paralyzing. How often do we shut ourselves inside a “locked room” in our minds, shrinking from things that have hurt us, barricading our hearts from other things that might happen? Today’s Gospel offers hope: Christ crucified and risen, not just knocking on the doors of our hearts but entering into the closed space where we’re hiding–
“Peace be with you,” he says.
I absolutely love what comes next, as an antidote to fear. Not “Here I am – now grab your swords and help me fight back” but “look at my hands and my side.” Yes, they killed me. Yes, it was awful. But look at me now! Put your fingers in those nail marks! They’re real – but I AM ALIVE, better than ever in fact. PEACE be with you. There’s no need to be afraid.
Then he breathes on them new life, the life of the Holy Spirit, and arms them for battle: not with fancy words or spears and swords but with forgiveness. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I went out forgiving, even to the Cross, and won not death but life! Now you go and do the same.
Our battles are real. At whatever level you’re facing the onslaught of the Enemy, whether it’s sickness or discouragement or the loss of a job or attacks on your faith, Be Not Afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!
In the words of St. Paul—
“in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 37-39)
On this Divine Mercy Sunday,
St. John Paul II, pray for us.