God never overpowers, never twists arms, never pushes our face into something so as to take away our freedom. God respects our freedom and is never a coercive force.
And nowhere is this more true than in what is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels assure us that, the resurrection was physical, real, not just some alteration inside the minds or imaginations of believers or followers. No, after the resurrection, we are assured, Jesus’ tomb was empty, people could touch him, he ate food with them, he was not a ghost.
But his rising from the dead was not a brute slap in the face to his critics, was not a non-negotiable fact that left skeptics speechless. The resurrection didn’t make a big news splash or headline: After he rose from the dead, Jesus was seen by some, but not by others; understood by some, but not by others. Some got his meaning and it changed their lives, others were indifferent to him, and still others who, while they understood what had happened, they still hardened their hearts against it, and tried to destroy its truth.
We even see this continuing today, so why the difference? What makes some see the resurrection while others do not? What lets some understand the mystery and embrace it, while others are left in indifference or hatred?
Here might be the difference…Hugo of St. Victor used to say: Love is the eye!
When we look at anything through the eyes of love, we see correctly, understand, and properly appropriate its mystery. The reverse is also true. When we look at anything through eyes that are jaded, cynical, jealous, or bitter, we will not see correctly, will not understand, and will not properly appropriate its mystery.
That is why, after the resurrection, some saw Jesus but others did not. Some understood the resurrection while others did not. Those with the eyes of love saw and understood. Those without the eyes of love either didn’t see anything or were perplexed or upset by what they did see.
It’s been exciting for us—as Catholics—to witness the words, the actions, the gestures…and even the heart of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. I’ve been especially excited to get to know him through news and media outlets. In his first days, the world was lit up: all was new and fresh and exciting.
But as the days have progressed into weeks, that fullness of our joy about Francis has been battered a bit by criticisms and cynicism. From some who have written ghastly comments about a man they do not even know to others who have posited a deep-seated wickedness within this man they haven’t even met or a Church they don’t even understand, much less appreciate and embrace…warts and all. Some have been so cruel as to attempt to tear down the Church and even “faith in any God” by slandering this simple, humble laborer who is alongside us in the vineyard.
And yet, even in the midst of this, there have been those blessed some who are willing to open their hearts of hope and faith, ready to see the works of Christ Jesus again done in our midst through Francis. There are some whose hearts have grown weary and afraid, but who are finding now in “Nostro Papa Francesco” a simple, humble response to God’s invitation to be holy, to follow the master, to allow God to hold us again…and encourage us to return His sweet embrace.
So, maybe it is true that love is the eye, that our availability is the key to receiving the news “Christ is Risen”, and believe it! Maybe our disposition to “be open” to the great gift of faith is what is first needed to enter into faith.
But…of course it’s true! We have four witnesses who come before us this night to profess this truth, to be captured by it! Tonight, Rick—our Elect—finds the answer to his seeking and searching, and he discovers & is embraced by the One who has always sought after him! Tonight, Brian comes forward to accept a faith that has been ever close to him, encouraging, inviting, gently holding him and allowing him to find a freedom in acceptance of the One who invites him into His unity. Tonight, Shakir and Jessica join these men as they freely embrace a new kind of discipleship: that flowing from the anointing with the Holy Spirit, they are sent with us to proclaim by word and deed—in season and out of season—that “Christ is Lord and He reigns forever!”
Sure, there are lots of ways to be closed to faith. But there are also ways for us to be open to the gift of faith, the gift of God, the gift of Christ, His resurrection and His gospel. Remember: the miraculous doesn’t force itself on us. It’s there, there to be seen, but whether we see or not, and what precisely we do see, depends mainly upon what’s going on inside our own hearts.
May the message of the Gospel permeate each of us in profound ways, in various ways, in unique ways—particular to each one—so that we might be renewed in God’s life and profess faith, to the glory of God the Father.
“Christus vincit; Christus resurrexit! Alleluia!”