The Upper Room has always intrigued me. There Jesus gathered with his friends for the Last Supper. There the apostles took refuge during all the confusion of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. It seemed to have served as a type of command center in the days after the resurrection. And it was there that Jesus appeared to Thomas and the other apostles, who were still in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
What most intrigues me about the Upper Room is how difficult it was for the apostles to move beyond its four walls. In a place where they shared the most intimate moments with Jesus at the Last Supper, the apostles have now shut themselves up in fear. Their world seemed messy and dangerous. They were paralyzed and did not know what to do. Their friend, their teacher, their Lord was no longer there with them. So they created a safe place.
But Jesus keeps trying to break into that Upper Room that is now closed and sealed. Read today’s Gospel from St. Mark. There are three wonderful descriptions where the closed Upper Room is really a symbol of the closed minds and hearts of the apostles.
First, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. She went and told Jesus’ companions what she had seen, but they did not believe. They were too overwhelmed, mourning and weeping in their Upper Room.
Second, Jesus appears to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They turned around and went to that sealed Upper Room to tell the others. But the apostles did not believe them either.
Third, as the apostles were at table -very likely the same table where they celebrated the Last Supper – Jesus appeared to them. He "rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart," the Gospel story reads, "because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised."
I have to wonder about the Upper Room in my life where I close myself off, where I live in fear or shame. I wonder how often I seal myself away, unaware of the many different ways God is trying to break through my own unbelief and hardness of heart, my own prejudices and biases, my own preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. Like the apostles, I need Christ to enter into my life and help me throw open the windows and doors of my Upper Room so that I can proclaim the Good News: He is risen! I have seen him. Alleluia.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.