From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Locked in or locked out?

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the May 3, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

We live in a world in which locks play a more significant role than we may imagine. We lock the car. We lock the house. We lock the freezer in the garage. We lock the tool box at work. We lock the desk. We lock the safe. We lock the bike. We lock the file cabinet. We lock the gas cap. We lock the parking meter, the ATM, the riding mower, the —

Okay! Enough already!

In all these examples, the act of locking, we hope, keeps someone away from us or away from our belongings. With a little flick of a key, we presume that we have created a safe and secure environment. After all, no one would think of breaking through our lock!

Of course, the daily newspaper is evidence of how wrong we can be. Being the hearers (or victims) of violence, we multiply the number of locks (five on the motor scooter should be sufficient) or increase their strength (how’s triple-plated stainless steel for the golf bag?).

We normally think of lock as serving to keep people out. Seldom do we consider locking ourselves in (unless it’s a high school graduation party).

This business of locking doors comes to mind early in this Easter season as we hear once again readings at Mass about Jesus’ various resurrection appearances. Where did the disciples go after the crucifixion? To a place of shelter. And what did they do? Locked themselves in. And no simple padlock or $13.95 lock set used they.

In the Middle East at the time of Jesus, doors were locked with huge planks of wood — especially if the neighborhood was ready to have your head for some reason. Having crucified Jesus, the Master, what did the blood-inspired crowd have in store for the disciples? They ran and hid, locking themselves in a room of shared despair and fear.

Now are the disciples locked in? Or is the angry mob locked out? Whose movement is being obstructed by the heavily barred door?

We know the scene well from our childhood catechism classes. Despite the locked doors, Jesus comes to his disciples and stands among them, offering the gift of peace. Interestingly, even after the first such appearance the disciples are found still behind locked doors, but at least the conversation has begun about the reality of Jesus’ presence in their midst. Thomas just won’t believe it until he touches. Others won’t believe because some women have told them an exaggerated tale of having seen Jesus (and we all know how untrustworthy the “religious type” can be). Others, perhaps, were waiting for someone else to take the first step.

Whatever happened in that fear-filled room changed mightily with the presence of Jesus. His wounds testified to the fact that he indeed was the Crucified One. But his transformed or “glorified” body — which even heavily bolted doors could not stop — spoke another reality.

Again this Easter season it strikes me how much we cradle Christians (or even converts, for that matter) — despite all our practices of Christian religion and ritual — can be locked inside ourselves. The same fears that huddled the disciples together in their think-alike group in that room still are at play among us. The doubt can prevail. We can demand an appearance of Jesus on our own terms (which never happens). We can reject the testimony of news-bearers because of the blindness of our own prejudices about who merits the title of preacher.

The Jesus who is ever-so-patient with his dullard disciples during his walk to Jerusalem is the same patient Savior who takes the initiative to crash through the locked doors of fear, doubt and hesitation. The peace he brings is like no peace the world can give. It is a peace that touches the core of our being and enflames the heart.

Meeting Jesus is more than the confirmation that a dead man is alive, miraculously conquering the unavoidable tragedy of death. Jesus’ Resurrection is God’s work, an absolute statement of unconditional love that will not be inhibited by death in any of its forms.

Pshaw on those who see the resurrection stories as a collective aspiration of the human heart that the great man Jesus “lives” in the memories. Yes, we can reduce Christian life to that. But the Gospels testify to a different reality. Christian discipleship entails more than membership in a church or adherence to a value system. It is rooted and enflamed by an encounter with a specific man from Nazareth who lived, who died and who lives. For real!

Accepting the truth and power of that reality, there is no fear (just like the T-shirts announce). After all, if death has no hold on Jesus, what of ultimate significance can anyone do to his followers to whom he has promised an equal share of glory?

Every Easter, despite the era or the place, we find ourselves challenged by that darkened room where the disciples cowered and trembled. In every era and in every place we hear in the Good News that Jesus lives. We struggle with the doubt of Thomas, the hesitation of Peter, and the cynicism of the others. If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we are locked inside our own fear-full world. (Fear takes such strange forms in our culture.) Are we, too, afraid of what “they” might do or say if we let loose with a radical display of Christian discipleship? Are we afraid of the truth that Jesus is risen and thereby has placed a total demand on our hearts?

Who is locked in? And who is locked out?

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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