As I reflected on today’s gospel passage several threads kept coming together. On the Sunday after Easter, Jesus appears to all the disciples except Thomas. A week later, Thomas is there and Jesus appears again, allaying his doubts and admonishing him, and us, about the strength of a faith that believes without seeing. In the gospel today, John relays the Last Discourse, where he collects Jesus’ last teachings to his disciples. Jesus tells the disciples that they see the Father because they have seen Him, that they know God through knowing Jesus.
Jesus goes on to say that those who believe in Him, who are trying to find their way back to the Father, will do the works that He has done. In fact, Jesus suggests that through faith, through following His way, those who follow will do greater works than even He has done.
Who has seen Jesus today? Do we recognize Him when we do see Him? When we pause and turn away from our own daily lives, when we turn the focus off ourselves and look to the other, we can easily see Jesus in the eyes of the homeless man, the battered woman, the orphan. We can see Jesus in the refugees in Darfur, in the rape victims of Rwanda, in the victims of hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in China, in the people of the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation, in the eyes of the woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.
But do we see Jesus in the gay couple that seeks social equality? Do we see Jesus in the doctor who performs abortions? Do we see Jesus in the Somali pirates? Do we see Jesus in the mass murderer who destroys innocent lives? Do we see Jesus in the despot who leads his country closer to war and destruction? Do we see Jesus in the people most reviled in our world?
How can we see Jesus in such people? How can we look beyond their actions and see the commonness we share with each of these people – creation by the same God, with the same eternal soul, with the same calling to reconcile our human existence and to return to a spiritual oneness with our Creator?
How did Jesus himself act with people such as these? What works would Jesus do with and for them today? Would Jesus condemn, would He judge, would He exclude? Would Jesus shout and shake His fist? Would Jesus close His mind and His heart to those in need because they didn’t fit His perceptions?
Jesus aligned Himself with the least among society. He ate with tax collectors, and prostitutes, and Samaritans. Jesus always looked for the good that could be found in the person. (Well, except perhaps for the Scribes, the self-righteous guardians of the status quo whose narrow-mindedness caused them to hide behind the letter instead of acting upon the spirit of the law.) Jesus eased the burdens of those who were hurting; stood in solidarity with those least respected by society; cured those who were ill in body, mind and spirit; answered insults and slights with kindness; forgave those who hurt Him; and subjected Himself to God’s will, knowing that doing so would result in His cruel death at the hands of those who did not believe.
Before we can do the works of Jesus we must see Jesus in the people we encounter. Before we can act, we must recognize the connection between the person with whom we interact and ourselves. We must see the innate bond we have with all our fellow pilgrims on this journey of life. We must love our neighbor as we do ourselves.
And so my prayer today is to see with the eyes of Jesus so that I might act with the heart of Jesus.
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