They were behind closed doors out of fear. Fear of what? Several things. They were afraid that those responsible for the death of Jesus might hunt them down, afraid of public ridicule, afraid to go home because they had left everything to follow Jesus. Now they would have to admit they were wrong; better to hide until it was all over. Fear is a terrible thing and most of us have had it.
Our country is involved in conflicts; we still fear terrorism and some are facing the loss of health and income with COVID-19. All around us people are dying as we fear for our children and ask what the future holds. A few months ago on a bleak winter day, a social worker brought to St. Christopher’s Inn (SCI) a young man who was seventeen and a victim of neglect, abuse, and bureaucratic failure. He had ten sets of foster parents and he was now drug-addicted. Sadly, we could not admit him to our program at SCI because he was only 17.
You have to be at least 18 to be admitted to the program. Our staff started calling around for a good referral source for him. I told him what we were doing, “we are trying to get you into this very good program and you will be able to stay there until your 18. Then when you reach 18 you can come back here. So let’s hope.” Without even lifting his head to look at me, he said in a flat tone. “It hurts too much to hope.” What a terrible burden to carry.
Here was a young man just starting out on life, locked in fear. Some of us have so many fears that we withdraw, take no risks and hide. We often hide behind doors of our own making; we fear not fitting in at school or work, not feeling good about ourselves, not looking good and so often we are afraid of just not being accepted. As Bette Midler sings, “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance; it’s the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes a chance.”
So often, we are looking for someone to walk through the doors we have closed and call us out of our fears. Someone who understands because they have been there. I once told you about the man whose face was so burned and disfigured in a house fire that he shut himself away and would not let anyone see him, not even his wife. After a year of self-imposed exile, the wife went to a plastic surgeon Dr. Maltz. He told her “not to worry I have worked on many people with burns; I can help your husband.”
She replied, “You do not understand Doctor, he won’t let anyone see him. He won’t accept help. I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him. If I can share his pain, then maybe he will let me back in his life.” Dr. Maltz was so shocked he told her he could never do such a thing, but he would come and speak to her husband. Knocking on the man’s door he spoke loudly, “My name is Dr. Maltz, I am a plastic surgeon and I want you to know that I can restore your face.” No response.
“Please come out so we can talk,” still no response. Speaking through the door, Dr. Maltz told the man of his wife’s proposal. “She wants me to disfigure her face like yours in the hope that you will let her back in your life. That’s how much she loves you.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then ever so slowly the door opened. In our Gospel, we are like the husband hiding in fear behind locked doors.
Disfigured with their own betrayals and cowardice, Jesus appears in their midst. Here you must notice-cannot fail to notice-He appears with His wounds. Maybe Jesus feels if, like the wife in the story, He can appear before they disfigured that they will let Him back into their disfigured lives. Are we getting the message that He is trying to give us? When it hurts too much to hope when life has wounded us when faith is exhausted, He is still present to us and His mercy is overwhelming.
When faith becomes just conformity when there are parts of my life I do not want to think about or deal with when life becomes a burden know that the risen Lord is still present for us. Jesus is willing to come through the doors that we have used to shut Him out. His Mercy is ever-present in our lives.
It is better for us to know that He understands where we are coming from and that He can give us peace and wholeness. So even if you cannot or do not feel like praying, if your faith is weak, simply repeat the last three words of the bible, “Come Lord Jesus.” Give your sins, your wounds to a wounded Lord. Saint John Paul, II said, “Don’t be afraid, open up to Christ.”
One thought on “Fr. Bob’s Homily – Mercy Sunday”
Your words never fail to resonate a sympathetic chord. You never make light of the intense suffering in our human lives, yet you always offer real hope. Thank you.
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