Doors are a beautiful image for divine mercy. We see them in our Gospel today, the Gospel we always have on Divine Mercy Sunday. It is the story of the first priests, congregated as they were in the Upper Room. They had the door closed and locked. Jesus came in anyway. That is mercy. Pope Francis picked up on this image of doors for mercy when he instituted the Holy Doors during the Year of Mercy.
Sometimes doors open for us. That is mercy. I think about when God gives a new job, or when a new relationship forms. It is mercy that opens these doors! Sometimes the doors of new opportunities and relationships open even when something that at first seems bad happens. I think about the story I use all the time of a couple that met because of a car accident. Their kids owe their lives to a car accident! Talk about a door that couple never would have sought out. It is mercy. God opens new doors for us all the time. Puts the right people together at the right time. I’m think about Fr. Rick and Fr. Rodolphe. We’ve been hosting our Haiti priests this weekend. The amount of assistance we as a parish provide our sister parish in Haiti, it is amazing, and it is largely because Fr. Rick and Fr. Rodolphe became friends in seminary. A big door opened there. It is mercy! And because that door opened, so many other doors have opened and will open.
Sometimes, though, the doors do not open for us. That, too, is mercy. I read this line the other day that I can’t stop thinking about. It is this. “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” Sometimes we are convinced a certain door is “our door.” But, for reasons we may never know, it isn’t. And God keeps it closed for good reason, and that reason is mercy. Sometimes we are convinced that some job or some promotion is meant to be ours, but someone else gets it. That’s because God has a different door in store for us. I prayed a long time when I was younger for the perfect girl to walk into my life. That door was not opened for me. It is mercy! Because had it opened, I wouldn’t be a priest. I know many men who were in seminary where the opposite happened. They prayed and prayed for a vocation to be a priest. That is what they wanted. But it didn’t happen, that door didn’t open. Now they are married because the right door opened at the right time. It is all mercy. So many people waste so much time trying to break down some door that isn’t meant for them.
Today we hear that Peter and John had a boldness about them. Boldness is not hesitating or being fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff. It is being courageous and daring. Now what’s interesting is that they are bold not because they are superhuman or ridiculously smart. In fact, scripture says the opposite. They are uneducated and ordinary. Their strength and boldness, its source was not themselves. It was the Holy Spirit. We must plug into that Spirit as they did….so we can be bold….and renew the face of the earth
It is amazing how the Church has grown. It all started with twelve broken, falible, weak men. And now it is a giant, has been forever. How this growth occurred? Because like Peter in our first reading, people have incredible experiences of the Lord and in excitement and love tell people about it. That is all it takes to bring people into the fold. And look what happens, we become fishers of men and bring countless folks into the boat….just as we see in the gospel today. Some freshmen at Roncalli invited their baseball coach last year to Mass. He just became Catholic. This is how the Church has always grown and must always grow. I worry we can be too quiet about it, not letting our love and excitement for the Church be felt by those we know and love.
This man has always been an important example of prayerfulness and humility to me. It was those two qualities that made him an outstanding leader. I remember witnessing them even as a youngster, when he would come and I’d serve Mass for him. He made quite an impression on me. He was the bishop that allowed me into the seminary. When I showed up to begin the process of formation, he shook my hand and stared me in the eye and said, “We’ve been waiting for you Michael.” I will never forget those words or the man who spoke them. Happy birthday archbishop! May God bless you always!
I remember when I worked at St. Vincent as a chaplain. The days were sometimes difficult. I remember starting each day with Mass of course, and how many days I wished that Mass would never end. I didn’t want to face what was coming. Sometimes I have days now. We see the two folks on their way to Emmaus he a similar feeling in today’s gospel. The road to emmaus offers a view of the Mass: there is the breaking of the bread and the Eucharist. Then the disciples pray that they can stay there forever. But nope. Jesus vanishes and leaves them to their mission, having fed them with the bread and given them directions through the scriptures. It is the same for us.
A group of second graders was given a task of writing a short letter to God. About anything. Some funny things came out of this! One wrote, “Dear God, maybe Cain wouldn’t have killed Abel if they’d had their own rooms. It works with my brother.” There were some good ones. One girl wrote, “Dear God, If we come back as something, please don’t let me come back as Jennifer Horton. I hate her.”
Now you and I know that we don’t “come back” as something. I won’t come back as a bug or dog or king. That is ridiculous. But I tell you this: God does want to bring us back today….back to life!!
Today, Good Friday, is the saddest day of the year. A man named Erich Fromm said that one cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often. Well, at least from time to time. Today we call good because Jesus was the most responsive a person can be to the needs of the world. Our God loved us and loved us to the end. It is sad that it had to come to that, but our Christ gives us a beautiful example: sadness should lead to responsiveness.
We are sad also because today is the devil’s day. The tabernacles of the world are empty, as he wants them to be. There can be no baptisms today, no new life. There can be no sacraments except penance and the sacrament of the sick in cases of emergency, and the devil loves this because he hates the sacraments. The crosses and statues are covered, just as he wants them. The adoration chapels around the world are empty and dark and closed, as the devil wants them. The normal happy conversation and fellowship that happen after we gather here in prayer, it should not happen today (for we disperse in silence), and the devil loves that lack of greetings and hugs and laughs that are the norm. Normally I take solace sometimes in knowing that, at any moment during the day, at least several hundred priests around the world are celebrating the mysteries. But not today. There is no Mass today. And that is what makes the devil the happiest.
Yes, today is the devil’s day. It is a sad, sad day. But the saddest day leads to the happiest day, and that is just around the corner. The devil does not have the final say. Tomorrow we will have the loudest and most glorious Masses around the world we can dream of. It will be time to feast, time to celebrate with pomp and circumstance, time to baptize the heck out of people. I can’t wait!
But wait we must, and we wait in silence and prayer and reflection. We give the devil his day. And we watch him lose.