“What is your aim in philosophy?”
“To show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.” ~ Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost
Paraphrasing Wittgenstein, we can say that the aim of the Resurrection is to show us the way out of the places in which we are trapped, from the existential bottles we have managed to wind up in, perhaps attracted by sweet smells that leave us empty. They are the situations that we have thrust ourselves into and had the door locked behind us, and now we bounce off the walls of the bottle without ever finding a reasonable solution.
The disciples in today’s Gospel have also closed themselves up within the Upper Room and don’t know how to get out. The Upper Room has become the opposite of the tomb: if the tomb has been opened and become a place of life rather than death, the Upper Room is closed and has been transformed from the place where Jesus gave His life to His disciples into a place of fear and death.
Why are have we locked ourselves in?
Perhaps, like the disciples, we are afraid – afraid of being judged, afraid of failing, afraid of disappointment.
But Jesus is not deterred by closed doors. It’s more; not even the closed doors of our hearts can keep him out. In His Easter appearances, Jesus visits the disciples in the evening when night is closing in as if to assure us that, even when night falls around us, we are not alone.
Many times it is bitterness, anger or even hate that have us closed up inside ourselves. Jesus shows us that the way out of the bottle is forgiveness. Only forgiveness can bring peace to our hearts. Forgiveness is like a breath: it lets go and does not try to hold anything back. The doors of the Upper Room will only open when the disciples are able to forgive. When we are angry, with closed fists, we hold tight to our bitterness and lock down our hearts. Forgiveness opens, lets go and frees the heart. Anger and spite transform our hearts into tombs.
And yet, despite these liberating experiences, the doors of the Upper Room remain closed. Thomas doubts because he wasn’t present when Jesus entered into the Upper Room, but even those disciples that saw Him seem to continue to doubt; after eight days the doors are still closed! Even with the many experiences of God’s goodness that grace our lives, our heart can remain stuck.
Thomas thinks that the solution is to put his finger in the wounds, much like us, when we are unable to find a way to confront the pain other than to repeat to ourselves what has happened. We find a kind of pleasure in returning again and again to the sadness in our lives.
Thomas was also called Didymus, which means twin. Yes, Thomas is like our twin; like him, we love to put our fingers in the wound and to dwell on suffering. But Thomas also means double, and in this way we are also like Thomas. He is double because he believes some and he doubts some, but also because he is a little bit inside the community and a little outside it. He is two-faced like us, because our spiritual lives are made of both faith and uncertainty, of belonging but also of solitude.
But despite our incredulity, despite our anger and bitterness, the Risen Christ comes back and passes through our closed doors and He invites us to go out again, to open the doors, so that we can escape the bottle we have trapped ourselves in and once again breath the joy of Easter and the Resurrection.
Questions for personal reflection:
- What situations do you feel trapped by?
- In what ways is the Lord inviting you to open the doors of your heart again?
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (20:19-31)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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.”And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “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.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
The Gospel of the Lord
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