Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy

There is a world of difference between watching a movie and attending a live performance of a play, between listening to a recording and being in the audience at a concert performance.  In a live performance, the attention, presence and response of the audience is an integral part of the experience, even for the musicians and actors.  It is experienced as being for and being heard.  There is, nonetheless, a Fourth Wall between performers and audience. It is an imaginary separation that permits the performers to function as if they were not being seen or heard.

On occasion, this Fourth Wall can be broken.  There is the example of the stage manager in Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town.  At several points, the stage manager  directly addresses the audience and draws them into the play itself.  They cannot remain on-lookers with cool, objective distance.  I recall the time of my confirmation when the bishop suddenly came down from the altar into the middle of surprised 10 year-olds and began to fire questions at them.  He broke through the Fourth Wall.

Our readings directly address us and draw us into the unfolding of the mystery we celebrate. But these (signs) 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.  Do not be unbelieving, but believe. The author (and Spirit of truth) breaks through the Fourth Wall that would leave us in discerning and discriminating independence, weighing the evidence and determining our level of commitment.

Left in our own hands and discretion, our beliefs are admirable leftovers, the dregs left in a sink or dish and lint on a dryer filter.  The life and spirit have been drained out of them, for all the satisfying certainty they offer.  We are still enclosed in locked rooms, confined by our fears and the limits of our imagination.  The Fourth Wall is intact.

Thomas was not with them, physically or in spirit.  He seemed to be more fearless than the others, since he ventured out into harm’s way.  Fear was not his problem, but perhaps his need to cling to self-confirmation, to evidence which would firmly connect him to his past experience and legitimate any steps he would take in the future.  Unless I see the mark of the nails … and put my fingers into the nail marks and put my hand into his side. He sought a connection that met his criteria.  The words of his brothers, “We have seen the Lord”, were not enough to break through his wall of disbelief.  He had too many beliefs to take these words to heart.

What is enough to bring us to belief, to change us from unbelieving to believing? The question always operative in our lives is, “What holds it all together?”  What binds the past and future, the hidden mystery and evidence of history, the wounds we carry in our lives and the hope which bears all things, the communion we try to create (all things in common, one heart and mind) and the divisions which estrange us from each other?  It is the revelation of the peace of Christ, a gift and reality needing to be acknowledged, accepted, and embodied in that life and Spirit given to us in Christ.  As surely as he breathed over his disciples in a moment of New Creation and sent them to bear this Spirit into the world, He breathes over us as we invoke His Spirit over the gifts (of ourselves) that we bring in this eucharist.  By the same Spirit, graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to for consecration that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son (Eucharistic Prayer III).  His breath is His life within us.  It is His peace, the dependable, trustworthy, reliable presence of his being alive and in communion with us.  As the disciples, we are commissioned to embody his forgiveness and healing in the world.  We are sent out of the confinements of fear and control to inflame the world with a new light and life.  We can speak directly to the world as witnesses to a peace which can break through all Fourth Walls.