Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Easter
Open Our Eyes…

Readings: Acts 7:51—8:1a; Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab; John 6:30-35

As is often the case, there’s much for us to learn when we compare the conduct of the various people in our readings today, especially how they respond to Jesus. In particular, the figure of Stephen rises head and shoulders above the others and provides a sharp contrast especially to the people who come to seek Jesus out in the gospel. In badgering Jesus for a sign so that they might believe in him, the latter demonstrate how blind they are to the Sign above all other signs, Jesus himself, who had only recently worked a miracle for them, filling their stomachs with all the bread that they could eat. Stephen, on the other hand, finds himself in a far less comfortable position. In fact, he is staring death in the face. Yet, even in his perilous situation, he sees the glory of God and Jesus sitting at God’s right hand. What might account for this difference?

Stephen himself gives us an indication. The difference between Stephen and the people in the gospel lies first in their relationship with the Holy Spirit. The latter resist the spirit, even as Stephen is filled with the Spirit’s power. But what does the Spirit do? What difference does the Spirit’s presence make? One obvious difference is in the way that people relate to the present and the past. Consider the people in the gospel. Quite clearly they are driven by their hungers of the present. They come to Jesus only because they think he can continue providing them with all the bread that they can eat. They are also clinging to their experiences of the past. They are too attached to the story of how, through Moses, God had fed their ancestors with manna in the desert, and so are blind to the way that God is feeding them now, in Jesus, the bread of life.

In contrast, Stephen’s openness to the Spirit enables him to see the deep connection between the past and his situation in the present. He is able to see that his difficulties were also the lot of the long line of prophets before him. Above all, even in the face of death, he is able to see the face of Jesus. And the sight fills him with the courage he needs to embrace his destiny as Jesus did before him, even to the extent of praying for the very people who are putting him to death. All this is the effect of the Holy Spirit’s enlightening and empowering presence in Stephen’s life.

And what of us? More likely than not, we too have our hungers in the present. Just as we probably also have things in the past to which we may still be clinging. How might we be more open to workings of the Spirit? How might we see more clearly the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst?

I’m reminded of the words of an old hymn:
Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.
To reach out and touch him, and say that we love him.
Open our ears Lord, and help us to listen.
Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.
How is the Risen Christ revealing himself to us today?

1 comment:

  1. I'm told that about 75% of the information we receive is through our visual faculty. From whence the saying "Seeing is believing" and "What you see is what you get". However, in this digital age, what we see may not always reflect reality and therefore should not be believed prima facie. Enter, computer graphics and interactive media.

    Society today creates what we want to see, hear or believe. This is the bedrock of advertising and the media industry. While we are stunned by the awesome visuals, we really don't know what (or who) to believe. Our senses have been dulled by the world.

    In the time of Jesus, the "miracles" He worked must've been to the Jews what the digital media is to us today. And one can hardly blame them for being "impressed". Today, in 21st century Singapore, our senses are somewhat jaded. Nothing surprises or shocks us anymore.

    Taking the cue from Fr Chris, I think we can still "open our eyes" to the workings of the Holy Spirit within us and around us. We do this in two ways. Firstly, by inextricably connecting the present to the past. And I don't mean it in the historical sense but in the sense of our own salvific history. Secondly, we cannot 'see' what we have never experienced. If a Martian were to walk up to me, I could easily mistake it for a piece of inter-galactic debris. Our faith and God experiences are the lenses through which we see God more clearly.

    Believing is seeing through the eyes of faith. "Open our eyes LORD..."