“On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked …” Jn. 20:19
Pentecost is the feast of locked doors – doors suddenly blown open!
It’s the feast of isolation, fear, suspicion, betrayals, abandonment, and near despair – all blown away by the resurrected Jesus whose first spoken words are “Peace be with you.”
No recriminations. No finger-pointing. No blaming. Only words of forgiveness. Words of assurance.
Pentecost is the feast that reminds us of that bunch of people – those early disciples – who wanted to do nothing other than slink away, go into hiding, and wallow in their guilt and shame.
And yet …
The Spirit of Second Chances breaks away the door and, with an eternally vast, lavish love, the ugliest kind of guilt and humiliation is instantly forgiven. The Spirit of New Life rushes in like a great wind and embraces each one with a sense of peace so profound that the doors of their souls fly open and a great fire lights their hearts.
Then, an even greater surprise …
Jesus chooses them – the very ones who abandoned and betrayed him – to be the wounded, forgiven healers that are to preach the Good News of God’s astounding love and mercy! The very ones who handed Jesus over become the same ones to begin a new community – a community eventually made up of people like you and me.
Pentecost, the feast of locked doors, becomes a feast of confrontation, of challenge. It doesn’t just let us sit back and be amazed at its great imagery of fire and wind and blown open doors. It demands that each of us search our own soul in answer to a single challenge:
Where are the locked doors in your life … where do you find yourself isolated in fear, clutching anger to your heart and refusing to emerge from emotional darkness?
Pentecost is not just something miraculously stupendous that happened some 2000 years ago.
Rather, it’s a feast that shows in ultra-dramatic fashion what can happen to every person who wants to escape the tyranny of fear, the misery of shame, the enslavement of vengeance.
Pentecost is an event that needs to happen in each of our lives – NOW.
Fr. William Bausch tells the story of a forty-one-year-old man named Tom who was dying of AIDS. His parents lived in so much shame about his illness that they literally locked him in an upstairs bedroom so that no one could see him.
The priest then tells how when he was finally allowed to go up to Tom’s room to visit with him, he bent over to kiss Tom on the forehead and then took his hand in his own. The emaciated, bed-ridden man whispered to the priest with tears streaming down his face,
“No one touches me anymore.”
The priest went on to report that, though he tried repeatedly to engage Tom’s parents in conversation about this, they refused to discuss the matter. The walls they built around their son and his illness were high and thick. They wouldn’t give an inch.
Fortunately, right before Tom died, his only brother broke through the wall of silence and embraced him. He told him, “I love you. I don’t care what you have. I love you.” Tom’s mother broke through soon after and held him to her heart.
But his father remained behind a closed door – until Tom died. At the wake, Tom’s dad finally broke down and opened the closed door of his soul, weeping with shame and regret over his neglect and abandonment.
Locked doors were blown open.
That’s what Pentecost is all about. Not just something magnificently miraculous that happened 2000 years ago, but something that can happen in each of our lives right now.
Pentecost is about blowing open the locked doors in our lives.
It’s about forgiving the sins of others and ourselves. It’s about living in peace and escaping the tyranny of fear and shame and meanness and judgment. It’s about releasing the Holy Spirit held captive within us and allowing us all to find a new dwelling in peace – the same peace that Jesus promised us on this day of freedom, the day we call Pentecost.
All we are asked to do is unlock the doors of our hearts. Then we can forgive. Then we can be freed of all our guilt and shame.
And then we can sing loudly with the psalmist in today’s liturgy:
“When you send forth your Spirit, they are re-created, and you re-new the face of the earth.”
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.