Sunday, April 05, 2015

Through A Glass Darkly

Easter Sunday

Picture: cc Dave

Sisters and brothers, have you ever tried looking through a glass window or door? Like the doors of this church, for example? What do you see? Well, it depends, right? If the space on the other side of the glass is brightly lit, then you see whatever is there. But what if that space is dark? What if it’s much darker than your side of the glass? Well then, very likely, all you’ll see is your own image reflected back at you. Which can be quite frustrating. What do you do then?

Busybody that I am, I sometimes try to take a closer look. I go right up to the glass. Cup my hands around my face. And stare hard into the dark. Hoping to see something. But if even such extraordinary efforts don’t yield any results, I usually give up. I continue on my own merry way. On my side of the glass. Forgetting what might be there on the other side. Until, perhaps, the next time I happen to pass by again.

Looking through a darkened pane of glass. Isn’t this a good image of what life is like? Mostly, we go through our days so busy with our many concerns that we don’t bother to think about whether or not there may be another side to things. A deeper side. A side that can help us make sense of everything else. Of course, there are times when we may be drawn to pause. To take a break from our frantic dashing about. And to try to peer through the glass. To try to penetrate the meaning of life. But it’s not easy. All too often our view is clouded by the burdens and pleasures of daily living. So that all we see is our own reflection. And when that happens, it’s easy just to give up. To stop looking. To continue, merrily or not, on our usual way.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that the desire to discover what’s on the other side of the glass doesn’t really leave us. It remains. Hidden somewhere at the back of our minds. Buried within the inner recesses of our hearts. Waiting for the right moment to surface. And there are times when this desire grows especially strong. Times of crisis, for example. A career setback, or a failed relationship. A serious illness, or a death in the family... But what can we do then? How are we to see through the darkened glass in a moment of crisis, if we haven’t already learned to do so in a time of relative calm?

Sisters and brothers, I think this is the question that our Mass readings help us to ponder, on this first day of Easter. In the gospel, Mary of Magdala and the other disciples are facing a terrible crisis. The man whom they were following. The one on whom they had pinned all their hopes. Whom they believed to be the Messiah. Has died. And he has died a most brutal death. An utterly disgraceful death. A death that puts into question everything they had believed him to be. What are they to do now? How will they carry on?

Mary does what her heart draws her to do. She goes back to the place where her master’s body was laid. Probably to mourn and to weep. But what she finds there shocks and upsets her. The stone had been moved away. In the darkness of her grief, Mary assumes the worst. They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him. Wrapped up tightly in the pain of her loss, Mary is unable to penetrate the Mystery of the Empty Tomb. Much like what happens when we try to look through darkened glass, all she sees is her own reflection.

And yet, to her credit, Mary does not give up. Her love is too great. There is no possibility of her simply walking away. She rushes off. But only to call for help. Then she returns to the darkness of the Empty Tomb. And, painful and confusing though it may be, she stubbornly continues to gaze into the depths of the Mystery. She stares into that darkened surface. Hoping that somehow, when the time is right, the light will begin to shine.

And it does. Gradually it does. In the reading, although the Risen Christ is still hidden from view, enough light is already shining for at least one of Mary’s companions to identify the signs of new life. The disciple whom Jesus loved gazes through the darkened glass of the Empty Tomb. And his eyes begin to penetrate the Mystery. He saw and he believed. And not just him. Shortly after this, Mary herself too will see. She too will believe. And life on this side of the glass will never be the same again.

For what the disciples see turns their lives around. Transforms them into the very thing that Peter claims to be in the first reading. No longer grieving orphans and fearful victims. But brave witnesses to the Crucified and Risen One. We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead, Peter exclaims. And he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people.

But that’s not all. The transformation is not just something that happens only once in the past. It is an ongoing process. A continual exercise of looking at things we do not understand. And learning to recognise signs of new life. Isn’t this what brings Peter to the home of Cornelius in the first place? Cornelius, as we may remember, is a gentile. A Roman centurion. Ordinarily, a good Jew would not visit such a person. Considering him unclean. But just before receiving the invitation to Cornelius’ home, Peter had seen a vision. In which the Lord had told him not to call unclean what God had made clean. The vision provides Peter with light to see gentiles like Cornelius with new eyes. So that the same thing that happened to the disciples at the Empty Tomb, now happens to Peter at the home of a believing gentile. He sees and he believes. He hears and he obeys. And a whole family is ushered into the fullness of life.

All of which helps us to better understand what is meant in the second reading, when it tells us to look for the things that are in heaven. To let our thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth. It is not that we are forbidden to look at or think about whatever we may find in the world. That would be impossible. But we should look at our world always through the darkened glass of faith. Always through the Mystery of the Dying and Rising of the Lord. And we should do this especially with the things that confuse and upset us most. The things that we understand and value least. The various crises that we may encounter in our lives. The different classes of people whom we neglect. Or against whom we may be prejudiced. For here we find the Empty Tombs of our lives. Here are the places where the light of the Crucified and Risen One is waiting to shine. So as to transform us. And, through us, the rest of our waiting world.

Sisters and brothers, today, after 40 penitential days of Lent, we begin 50 joyful days of Easter. 50 days devoted to letting the light of Christ penetrate the darkness of our hearts and our world. 50 days of gazing into Empty Tombs and at believing gentiles. Waiting for the Risen One to enlighten and to transform. To inspire and to empower...

Sisters and brothers, what must you do to continue gazing steadily into the darkened glass today?

1 comment:

  1. O Risen Lord,

    This Easter,

    **come fill our beings and transform us to be more like You, to put on the mind of Christ, to live and love like You.

    **lead us out of our darkness into Your Wonderful Light

    **teach us to walk always on your paths and guide us in Your ways

    **teach us to die to our SELF and EGO and draw us ever closer to You

    **keep us always in your Loving Embrace & never let us be parted from You,

    Like St Thomas, I too acknowledge You as My Lord, My God and my All.


    Sih YIng
    11 April 2015